Fewer vs Less: AP Style Rules

Fewer vs. Less AP Style: Deciphering Usage with Engaging Examples

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Derek Cupp

By Derek Cupp

Language is a fascinating realm, and it’s often the tiny nuances that spark the most intrigue. Today, I’ll dive deep into one such linguistic debate – the use of “fewer” versus “less”. A common puzzle for many, it’s time to clear up this grammar showdown once and for all.

The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, a comprehensive guide for writers, has its own take on this issue. As we navigate through this topic together, you’ll gain critical insights into AP style rules regarding these controversial words.

So let’s get straight to business! Are you ready to decipher the mystery of ‘Fewer vs Less’ in AP style? It might just change your writing game forever.

FewerFewer than twenty people attended the meeting.“Fewer” is used for individual items or people that can be counted. It is used when the quantity is plural and countable.
LessShe has less confidence now than she did last year.“Less” is used for bulk or quantity that is measured. It is used when the quantity is singular or uncountable.
FewerFewer cars are being sold this year.“Fewer” is used when referring to quantities of countable nouns.
LessThere is less sugar in this recipe than in the original.“Less” is used when referring to singular mass nouns, things not usually counted.
FewerThere are fewer students in the class this semester.“Fewer” is often used with countable nouns in the plural form.
LessHe spent less than $20 on lunch.“Less” is used with singular nouns or with quantities or amounts.
FewerI have fewer books than my sister.“Fewer” is used with countable items, where you can quantify the number of individual items.
LessWe need to use less water during the dry season.“Less” is used with uncountable nouns, where the quantity is viewed as a single mass or whole.
FewerFewer people are smoking these days.“Fewer” is used when you can count the individual units.
LessLess time is spent on physical activities by kids these days.“Less” is used with singular mass nouns, things not usually counted.

Understanding the Basics: Fewer vs Less

I’ve often noticed how easily people get tripped up when deciding between “fewer” and “less.” It’s a common grammar conundrum that’s puzzled even the most seasoned writers. So, let’s shed some light on this puzzling pair.

In essence, it all boils down to countability. The word “fewer” is used with countable items – things you can quantify individually like apples, cars or books. For instance, you might say “I have fewer books than my friend.”

On the flip side, we use “less” for uncountable nouns – those you can’t divide into individual units such as milk, love or time. Think about saying something like “I spent less time on homework.”

Here are a few examples to illustrate:

I need fewer apples for this recipe.Apples are countable so we use fewer.
There’s less traffic today than yesterday.Traffic isn’t counted in individual units so we use less.

But wait – there’s more! In everyday speech and informal writing, you’ll often hear and see “less” being used where technically “fewer” would be correct according to these rules (e.g., “The store is open less hours during holidays.”) This common usage has become widely accepted over time.

Fortunately, AP Style comes to our rescue here by sticking firmly to the traditional rule: Use “fewer” with countables and “less” with uncountables. If you’re aiming for absolute grammatical correctness according to AP Style guidelines – remember this distinction.

So next time you find yourself hesitating between these two words, just ask yourself one simple question: Can I count it? Your answer will guide you straight towards grammatical accuracy!

Applying AP Style: Correct Use of ‘Fewer’ and ‘Less’

As with many English grammar rules, there’s a clear distinction between the use of “fewer” and “less”. In Associated Press (AP) style, I’ve come to understand that it’s all about countability. If an item can be counted individually, like apples or books, we should opt for the word “fewer”. So you’d say, “I have fewer books than my friend.” On the other hand, when dealing with singular mass nouns—those things we can’t quantify individually—we use “less”. An example would be: “There’s less water in this bottle than in that one.”

This rule is far from new. It dates back to 1770 when an Englishman named Robert Baker suggested it in his book “Remarks on the English Language.” However, it wasn’t until around 1877 that Henry Watson Fowler formalized it in “The King’s English.”

Notably though, popular usage often ignores this rule. You’ll probably hear people saying things like “I have less apples” or see supermarket signs advertising “10 items or less”. These instances are technically incorrect according to AP style.

For your reference, here’s a quick table illustrating correct usage:

Incorrect SentenceCorrect Sentence
I have less books.I have fewer books.
She has fewer money.She has less money.

Despite its occasional misapplication in everyday language, understanding and adhering to this grammar rule could help us communicate more effectively and accurately—especially within professional contexts where AP style is considered standard.

It might seem minor at first glance but getting these details right showcases our command over language nuances—an essential skill for effective communication!

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

When it comes to the usage of “fewer” and “less”, I’ve noticed a lot of people tripping up. It’s not uncommon for folks to use these two words interchangeably, but actually, they serve distinct purposes in the English language.

Let’s talk about the word “fewer”. This term should be used when you’re referring to things that can be counted individually. For instance, if you were discussing cookies on a plate, you’d say “there are fewer cookies,” because each cookie can be counted as a separate entity.

On the other hand, we have “less”. You’d use this term when speaking about something that cannot be individually counted or is considered as a whole. An example might include talking about time. We would say “I have less time,” because time is viewed as one continuous entity rather than individual units.

A common pitfall I’ve seen involves the misuse of these words in supermarkets where signs read “10 items or less”. The correct phrasing should actually be “10 items or fewer” as items can be singularly counted!

So how do we avoid making such mistakes? Here are some tips:

  • When dealing with countable objects or entities, stick with using ‘fewer’.
  • If you’re discussing an uncountable quantity or something seen as a whole unit, go for ‘less’.
  • Practice makes perfect! Try writing out sentences using both terms correctly.

It might seem like a small detail in our day-to-day conversation but trust me – understanding and applying this rule can help enhance your professional communication!

Don’t feel disheartened if you still mix them up; even native speakers stumble here. With conscious effort and practice though, we’ll all get there eventually! So keep at it and remember: every little bit helps when it comes to mastering English grammar!

Conclusion: Mastering Fewer vs Less in AP Style

Mastering the use of “fewer” and “less” in AP style doesn’t have to be a daunting task. They’re simple once you get the hang of it. Remember, “fewer” is for things you can count, like apples or cars, while “less” is for things that aren’t countable, like time or money.

Let’s take a quick recap:

  • Use “fewer” when referring to items that can be counted individually. For example:
    • “I have fewer cookies than you do.”
    • “There were fewer people at the party this year.”
  • Use “less” when referring to singular mass nouns (i.e., things that can’t be counted). For instance:
    • “I have less money than I did last year.”
    • “She has less patience now.”

Consistency is key here. The more you practice using these words correctly, the easier it’ll become until it’s second nature.

Don’t hesitate to revisit these rules as many times as necessary. There’s no shame in double-checking your grammar — even seasoned writers do it!

By understanding these nuances in English language usage, we can all improve our writing skills and communicate more effectively. Whether you’re an aspiring author, a student looking to ace your English paper, or just someone wanting to feel more confident in everyday conversation, mastering these small but significant details will make all the difference.

So keep practicing and don’t lose heart if you mess up sometimes; even experts make mistakes! What matters is that we learn from them and continuously strive towards improvement.

May this knowledge serve as a stepping stone on your journey towards mastering AP style grammar!

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