JS Tip 290: Spooky Words Four

Tips from Jefferson Smith Training and Consulting

** From the Writing Workshops: Spooky Words Four

We’re still exploring spooky words—words that will haunt you if you use them incorrectly.

Number and amount

Use number when you can count the items: “The number of workshop participants increased from Monday to Tuesday.” You can count the number of participants: one, two, three . . . .

Use amount when you can’t count the items “The amount of learning increased on Tuesday.” You can’t count the amount of learning.

Fewer and less

Similar to number and amount.

Use fewer when you can count the items: “Fewer participants attended on Tuesday.” Again, you can count the number of participants: one, two, three . . . . Use less when you can’t count the items “The participants on Monday learned less than the ones on Tuesday.” Again, you can’t count the amount of learning.

The dreaded exception: Time and money

Generally, use less even when you're talking about numbers you can count:

“We have less than three hours to finish the proposal.” (Time: Hours.)

“We have less than eight dollars in the budget.” (Money: Dollars.)

(About the only time you’d say “I have fewer than eight dollars” is when you’re referring to the paper dollars in your wallet.)

What are your challenges? Let us know, and we’ll address them in future tips.

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