Friday, August 13, 2010

Less vs. Fewer: Food for Thought

Samantha pointed out that this eHow headline confuses less and fewer.

Where does eHow go wrong? Since dollars can be counted, the modifier should be fewer.

Quick rule:
  • Use fewer when referring to items that can be counted individually, such dollars or pennies. 
  • Use less when you are quantifying something that can't be counted as individual units, such as sugar, flour, water or money.

  • How to Buy More Groceries with Fewer Dollars
  • How to Buy More Groceries with Less Money

What about less than vs. fewer than?
  • The same countability rules usually apply. Fewer than 30 people came to the party. That diet soda has fewer than 25 calories per serving.  
  • There are some key exceptions. Less than is used with countable nouns when pertaining to:

    1. distance: The store is less than two miles from here. 
    2. time: I'll be home in less than three hours.
    3. money: That fishing hat costs less than $25.

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