03 July 2007

No less than 4 fewer dying traditions

According to Barry Leiba, of "Staring At Empty Pages," there are "exactly four" situations where it is proper to correct someone's grammar:
(1) when you're an English teacher correcting a student
(2) when you're coaching a nonnative speaker who's asked for help
(3) when someone else has asked for coaching
(4) when someone puts the equivalent of a "kick me" sign on her back.
My latest favorite is the distinction between less and fewer. From the Dictionary.com entry for fewer:
Usage Note: The traditional rule holds that fewer should be used for things that can be counted (fewer than four players), while less should be used with mass terms for things of measurable extent (less paper; less than a gallon of paint). However, less is used in some constructions where fewer would occur if the traditional rule were being followed. Less than can be used before a plural noun that denotes a measure of time, amount, or distance: less than three weeks; less than $400; less than 50 miles. Less is sometimes used with plural nouns in the expressions no less than (as in No less than 30 of his colleagues signed the letter) and or less (as in Give your reasons in 25 words or less).

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