Sunday, September 26, 2004

"Ten Items or Less (Fewer?)"

 As seen at Pain In The English
Alright, my pet peeve is the confusion behind the use of the words "less" and "fewer".

My thought is "fewer" relates to units while "less" relates to a quality or state of being. Basically, "If you can count them, use the word 'fewer' and if you can't, it's 'less'".

"Fewer cars on the road results in less traffic. This means less stress which, in turn, will result in fewer headaches."

That makes sense, doesn't it?

But I constantly see in the print media and hear on the radio or TV people reporting, "...this will mean less jobs for workers ...".

I recently saw a full-page ad for a Ford hybrid fuel/electric SUV which touted "...less trips to the gas pump" and (interestingly enough, in the same paragraph) "fewer repairs". Hey! Elements of Style, anyone?

Now that my point of ire is established, the real question is that of my Subject line, the ubiquitous sign at the supermarket. Which is correct? Rather than tell what I've heard, I'll just let this go on the table for all to consider... read more