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When I am Copyeditor General ...: News outlets will follow the lead of coffee chains

Thursday

News outlets will follow the lead of coffee chains

Perhaps Starbucks's confusion concerning "less" and "fewer" is forgivable; its people should rightly be more concerned with prompt delivery of my soy latte with sugar-free vanilla than with grammatical niceties.

However, I cannot extend the same benevolence to the Associated Press. While reading this:



I found this:



Oh dear me, Mark Jewell! Dear me again, AP editorial staff! You can spell bacteriophage but you can't follow your own rules?

Copyeditor General's ruling: The AP Stylebook's ruling:
fewer, less
In general, use fewer for individual items, less for bulk or quantity.

2 comments:

Laura Matthews said...

yeah, but, if you think of antibiotics like a fluid, rather than like separate little microscopic bodies, then "less" would make sense. like, we need less serum, not fewer.

not that I have any experience with such things.

LimeyG said...

A good point. In cases like this, I sometimes do a quick pulse-check, as it were, and see how others deal with the issue. On this one, a Google search showed organizations such as the NYT and BBC prefer "fewer," while "less" is used, um, less often and by fewer reputable publications.

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