Saturday, September 19, 2015

Don't Starve Your Dog! Write Right!

Kate and I are both fairly picky editors. Some things we let go for the sake of everyone’s sanity. But other things we can’t. For the author’s sake, it’s best to push a little harder to get him/her to see our rationale. For instance, using words correctly.

Here are a couple of things we see a lot of, in manuscripts and in general (mis)usage:


Amount vs. Number

Amount is used for things you can’t put a number on  - like:  money, emotions, wine, etc.

“I have a huge amount of faith in you!”
"You drank a large amount of wine last night."

Number is used for things you CAN put a number on (you can physically count) – pennies, cookies, bottles of wine.

“That’s a huge number of pennies you have in your hand!”
"I can't believe the number of bottles of wine we drank last night."


Less vs. Fewer

A simple way to remember the rule for less vs. fewer is this:

If the noun is singular, use LESS
If the noun is plural, use FEWER

Let’s use wine as an example one more time:

“Hey, there is less wine in the fridge than a minute ago!”

“Hey! I had fewer glasses of wine than you did!”


Clearly, somebody is drinking more than they should and probably doesn't care about proper grammar right now.  But I digress....

Grammar isn’t about being picky.  Rather, it’s a way of honoring our beautiful language. Or not mangling it. Or, maybe just making sure our readers don’t get pulled away from the enjoyment of a great story because of distracting and easily corrected errors. Which is why editors come in so handy!

Next time: Literally vs. Figuratively

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