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Fewer versus less

It amazes me how few people care enough to apply this rather simple rule correctly.

It seems incredibly easy to check your work every time you write “less” by asking yourself “can I count them?”.

If you can count the items in your shopping basket, the people in the room, the donuts you have eaten or the errors you have picked up while proofreading, and there aren’t as many as your reference value, then there are fewer.

If you can’t readily quantify the mass of butter in the butter dish, the volume of milk in the carton, the amount of rain that has fallen this week or the length of toilet paper left on the roll, but you know there isn’t as much as before, then there is less.

On a related note, there is no such thing as the “most amount” or “most number”. “Most” indicates a number or an amount (as does “least”), so adding the superfluous word “amount” suggests you don’t know what “most” means.

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