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Know the difference between fewer and less: Language skills

Knowing the difference between fewer and less

 

English is a complex language and there is often confusion between words that seemingly have the same meaning but are particular in their usage. Such is the case with the words fewer and less.

It’s tempting to be lazy about these words.

You might be happy to say, ‘There are less clouds in the sky today’, and most people would know exactly what you meant. But to be technical about it, the correct statement is, ‘There are fewer clouds in the sky today.’

If I say, I have lost less weight this month than last month, the statement is correct. But if I want to talk about the number of kilograms I have dropped, I would say, ‘I have lost fewer kilograms this month than last month.

So what’s the difference? A body or mass of materials is spoken of as less. There is less water in the swimming pool than there was before the rainy season.

But it is correct to say, I have drunk seven cups of water, two cups fewer than yesterday.

Fewer is used in instances where items can be counted as singular units, i.e. in the discussion, clouds, cups, kilograms. Less is used where quantities cannot be broken down into units.

Less is used with abstract nouns such as sunshine, rain, thunder etc.

Here’s an exercise for practice. Fill in fewer or less.

  1. Jane’s wardrobe has _______ clothing in summer than in winter.

  2. Peter has ___________ dogs than his best friend.

  3. Mary wears ___________ perfume on week days.

  4. There is _____________ heat in the mild curry.

    A lovely cup of tea
    A lovely cup of tea
  5. Tea is _____________ expenses than coffee.

  6. There are ___________ dollars left after a shopping spree.

  7. How can there be______ money in my account after I paid a deposit?

  8. There are much___________ pieces of paper in that draft document.

 

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Is said dead? How to use attributions correctly and creatively

In my work as a sub-editor, the only word allowed for an attribution is ‘said’. No, ‘revealed’, no ‘pointed out’, no ‘suggested’, no ‘argued’ – just plain ‘said’.

But for fiction writers the use of the word ‘said’ can become tedious if used over and over again. Eager writers will look for ways to substitute said with other, possibly more descriptive words.
There is a superb list of alternatives to choose from and budding novelists should not be discouraged.
For those who want to get stuck in right away, or write away, here’s a glimpse of just a few quick possibilities.

  • -Answered (a favourite)

    -Blasted

    -Cited

    -Exalted

    -Fumed

    -Garbled

    -Hissed

    -Intoned

    -Lambasted

    -Moaned

That’s just 10 ways to substitute said and should keep you busy as you fit the respective words to your characters. But getting back to said… You have to be careful that you substitute with purpose. The last thing you want is for your writing to sound forced and artificial.
There’s many a time where a simple said, will do the job just fine.

And at the cost of repeating myself, at the newspaper, said is the only attribution in the text. Here it’s all about simplicity.

And that’s all I have to say, for now.