Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Less Is More


To prescriptive grammarians, 10 units or less would be wrong, since units is countable and would accordingly require fewer. The notice should therefore read 10 units or fewer.
However, this conundrum could be avoided altogether if we simply phrase it Up to 10 units/items.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't emphasize enough the sheer joy of reading your blog weekly. Please keep up the great effort!

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Thank you!

khin wee said...

I have a feeling this particular problem may be the result of Math teachers teaching the concepts of "same" [=], "less than" [<] or "more than" [>]. I certainly don't remember my Math teacher switching to "fewer than" when referring to countable items. It was "less than" or "more than" regardless the items. KW

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Thanks, Khin Wee! That's an interesting observation.

Fox said...

Here is another example of the 'less' vs. 'fewer' mistake.

http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Money/Story/STIStory_457701.html

This problem is probably related to the way many Singaporeans mix 'few' and 'little' up.