Quick Grammar Tip: Fewer vs. Less

Fewer vs. Less

Many people believe that fewer and less are interchangeable, but that’s not the case. It’s true that both words are used to describe a smaller quantity of something, but they aren’t used in the same way.

In general, people use the word “fewer” if an item can be counted, and “less” if it can’t be counted.

So you would say:

  1. I have fewer than ten items in my shopping cart.
  2. I have less respect for you when you behave that way.

Items in a shopping cart can be counted. Respect can’t be counted.

Although this rule works in many situations, it is not entirely accurate because there are several exceptions to it (money, time, weight, mass quantities, and collective nouns). A better rule of thumb exists: use fewer for plural nouns and use less for singular nouns. (Think: is vs. are.)

The following examples are both grammatically correct:

  1. I have less than $20 in my pocket.
  2. I have fewer than twenty $1 bills in my pocket.

In example one, you can certainly count the amount of money that you have in your pocket. But because we think of $20 as a single unit (i.e., you would say “twenty dollars is a lot of money instead of twenty dollars are a lot of money), we use the word less in this situation.

In the second example, the term “dollar bills” is a plural noun. In other words, you would say, “dollar bills are green,” instead of “dollar bills is green.” Because of this, you use the word fewer in this situation.

If you have any grammar questions, please let me know in the comments below!

Quick Grammar Tip: Importance of Commas

Image Credit: WeHeartIt.com

Happy Punctuation Day everyone!

I get teased for being a stickler about grammar, but not everyone realizes how important it can be. Even something as seemingly insignificant as a misplaced comma can change the entire meaning of a sentence.

Let’s take a look at the example used in the image above:

  1. “Let’s eat Grandpa!”
  2. “Let’s eat, Grandpa!”

In Example 1, the speaker literally wants to eat Grandpa. Poor Grandpa! On the other hand, Example 2 indicates that the speaker wants Grandpa to join him/her for a meal. Now that’s more like it!

Remember to use your commas wisely. After all, proper grammar can save lives!

Do you have any grammar questions or concerns? Email them to me at amy@amyerickson.net or leave them in a comment below!

 

 

Quick Grammar Tip: There/ They’re/ Their

Source: someecards.com via Amy on Pinterest

 

Do you know the difference between there, their, and they’re?

In short, there is a location. Their indicates possession. And they’re is a contraction for they are.

There

The word “there” indicates a location. If you can substitute “here” in place of “there” and have the sentence still make sense, then you picked the right one.

How do you make sure you have the right word?

Well, if you can substitute “here” in place of “there” and have the sentence still make sense, then you picked the right one. E.g. John is over there. / John is over here.

If you can substitute “our” in place of “their” and still have the sentence make sense, then you are using the right word. E.g. Sally is going to their house. / Sally is going to our house.

And last but not least, if you can substitute “they are” in place of “they’re” and the sentence still makes sense, you picked the right one. E.g. They’re happy to join us tonight. / They are happy to join us tonight.

See, it’s not that hard when

15 Grammar Mistakes That Make You Look Silly (Infographic)

I just came across this infographic on one of my favorite sites, Copyblogger, and I thought it was too good not to share!

Some of these grammar mistakes are pet peeves of mine, while others are just common sense.

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
Like this infographic? Get more copywriting tips from Copyblogger.

What are your grammar pet peeves?

Check out the Copyblogger website. It’s one of my favorite places for writing and blogging tips!

Quick Grammar Tip: Irregardless

Here is one of my (many) grammar pet peeves: Irregardless.

Why is irregardless a pet peeve of mine? Not only is irregardless a non-standard word, but it makes no sense!

Let’s break it down:

Prefix: IR
Base word: REGARD
Suffix: LESS

Both the prefix “ir” and the suffix “less” translate to without. So saying “irregardless” equates to saying “without without regard.” Not only is that redundant, but it sounds silly!

Bottom line: Don’t say “irregardless.” Use “regardless” instead.

Do you have any other grammar questions? Send them my way!

Quick Grammar Tip: The Interrobang

‽‽‽‽‽‽‽‽ 

 

What is it?

I’m sure you’re wondering, “What the heck is an interrobang?!”

  • An interrobang is an imprecise punctuation mark used to express disbelief or ask a question in an excited manner.
    • This is an interrobang: ‽
      • If you don’t have a fancy keyboard (or don’t want to copy and paste), you can do this: ?!

This is a real thing–I promise!

 

How to use it

  • As the definition indicates, use the interrobang either to express disbelief, or ask a question in an excited manner.
  • Don’t use it too frequently. It lessons the impact.
  • Don’t use the interrobang multiple times at the end of a sentence. (i.e. ?!?!?!)
    • This is considered poor style in formal writing.
  • Consider your audience before using the interrobang. Although it works well for informal writing, it’s not the best option when writing a formal paper or a business proposal.
  • The question mark is commonly written before the exclamation point, but there is no universal rule about this.

 

Ask me your grammar questions in the comments below!

Should you dumb down your writing?

 

“It’s not just the vocabulary words that matter, but understanding the relationships that underlie the words — the fact that ‘eight’ is one more than ‘seven’ and one less than ‘nine.'”

via Study: Why Language Has More to Do with Math than You Think – TIME Healthland.

As a writer and an editor, I come across many people who will use the biggest word they can think of, even if it makes no sense in the context. Come on, this isn’t showing off! All it does is make you look silly.

There’s nothing wrong with big words; I like to use them whenever I can. The thing is, we sit and learn a long list of vocabulary words all through school–for spelling class, for the SATs, for various classes . . . How many of them do we actually use though? I want you to think about it, think about a news article or a blog post that is well-written and informative. What kind of language does it use? Who is its target audience?

I’ve learned that you have to write as simple as possible to reach the biggest audience. For someone who loves language and words in general, it can get depressing at times.

I think that I keep this blog somewhat simple, but I do sometimes analyze books I read. Funny story: When I was applying for jobs, I had a phone interview with a person who had read my blog. He strongly implied that I write at too high of a level for his intended audience. I suppose I should have been . . . flattered? Other than my series that analyzed Twilight, I think that I keep my writing pretty simple on this blog. I can write at a more complex level, and I can write on a simpler level. I did tell him that, but I didn’t get that job so maybe he didn’t believe me.

Also, I’d like you to keep in mind when I say I write at a simple level for my audience, it is so I can reach a wider variety of people, not because I’m implying that my readers are dumb!

Do you dumb down your writing for your audience?

Quick Grammar Tip: Unique

Unique is an absolute, which means that it never needs to be modified. The word unique means one of a kind—and something is either one of a kind or it isn’t. So don’t say that you’re a “very unique person.” You’re a “unique person,” plain and simple.

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What are your grammar questions? Ask me and I’ll try to answer them in a future blog post!

Grammar Tip: “I couldn’t care less”

For today’s post, I want to talk about one of my top grammar pet peeves: I could care less.

Here’s the thing, if you say “I could care less” it is implied that you do care to some extent. Basically, if you care at all, it is possible to care less.

So what do you say?

You say “I couldn’t care less.” This implies that there is absolutely no level of caring. If you don’t care at all, you can’t care any less.

Get it? I hope so . . . it drives me crazy when people use the wrong phrase.

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Got a grammar question? Ask me and I’ll answer it in a post!

Quick Grammar Tips: You’re vs. Your

In the Quick Grammar Tips series, I will explain some common grammar errors that I have found. I want to make these tips quick, simple, and easy to understand.

Here’s some background information: I don’t claim to be perfect at grammar, but I am a copy editor for Flux this term, so I use it a lot in my everyday life. In general, I have found that a lot of amazing writers make common grammar mistakes. I make them too if I’m writing something in a hurry. Some people know better, some don’t. The other reason behind this series is that it is something that I can do when I haven’t had the time to read a new book, see a movie, go somewhere interesting, or do anything else that I might normally blog about.

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Today’s grammar tip is the difference between YOUR and YOU’RE.

You’re using the right your, right? Are you sure? Keep reading to find out.

Your is a possessive, and you’re is a contraction of the phrase you are.

But what does this mean? It means that if you can substitute the phrase you are in the sentence, you want to use you’re.  If you can’t, it’s a possessive and use your.


CORRECT: You’re a pretty girl.  (“You are a pretty girl” makes sense here.)

INCORRECT: I am going to you’re house. (“I am going to you are house” doesn’t make sense here. If you are a house, then you have problems. If you are not a house, then it is your house.)

CORRECT: Your friend is beautiful. (“You are friend is beautiful” makes no sense here.)

INCORRECT: Your a great friend. (“You are a great friend” makes sense here, so you need to use the contraction you’re.)

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Do you have any grammar tips or questions? Let me know in the comments!