Every writer should read this.
Last month I talked about the words NUMBER and AMOUNT. Today I’m going to talk about some similar words that get confused.
These words are FEWER and LESS.
I say they are similar to the previouys words because the same rules apply. So many people will say something like,
‘There were LESS people at the match this week than last week.’
This is WRONG. IN this case, it should be FEWER.
Just as NUMBER refers to things we count, like people, goals, sheep in a flock, minutes in an hour, items in a shopping trolley etc., so FEWER also refers to those things.
FEWER is a digital word. It refers to things we COUNT.
LESS refers to things we MEASURE. Thus we would have something like,
There is LESS snow today than the same time last year.
or There is less flour in this cake than that one.
BUT There are fewer eggs in this cake than that one.
We MEASURE the flour, but we COUNT the eggs.
Please leave a comment on this post. I love hearing from you, and reblogging would help get the message across to more people and save me from continually shouting at the TV and radio.
There are two words that most people get wrong, these days. Strangely, they do not have similar spelling, nor similar sounds. When they are used wrongly, it grates on me.
Many well-educated people do not seem to be able to get it right, either.
What are these words?
They are Number and Amount.
The word ‘Number’ is rarely misused but ‘Amount’ is. All the time.
Let me try to explain the difference.
NUMBER This refers to, not surprisingly, the number of things.
It is used when we count things. 1,2,3,4,5 etc.
We can also say, for those techies amongst us, it is a digital word.
It tells us how many of something there is.
AMOUNT This refers to a measurement.
It is used when we don’t actually count individual things.
It is an analogue word.
It tells us how much of something there is.
Thus, to say ‘The amount of people at the party was 30′ is wrong. We are counting those people, not measuring them.
However, it is correct to say ‘The amount of rain that fell in October was less than normal.’ We are measuring the rainfall.
I don’t thing I’ve ever heard number used for a measurement, unless it is something like ‘The number of inches of fabric you need is…’, but then it’s counting, not measuring.
I would like this to get to as many people as possible, as I am getting increasingly stressed by this incorrect usage. Please re-blog it for my sanity’s sake.
Tautology is using words that mean the same thing in a sentence, that do not add anything further. An example is ‘widow woman’. I am going to talk about some tautological things that people say and write today.
So let’s begin.
I heard someone on the radio talk about a ‘small, little…’ Can you have anything little that’s not small? I have heard this on several occasions. Never, though, a ‘large, big…’ that I can remember.
‘Reverse back’ is another one frequently heard. Have you ever seen anyone reverse forwards? I haven’t.
‘Repeat again.’ Now this one can be used, but only if the thing has been said (or done) at least twice. Repeat means to do it again. The ‘again’ is in the word itself.
One that irritates me, and is very frequently used these days is ‘Various different…’ Have you ever come across things that varied but were the same?
‘Fall down’, although frequently used in everyday life, is none the less tautological. You can’t ‘fall up’, so the ‘down’ is unnecessary. This is one that writers should watch out for.
Close proximity. If it’s in proximity, it’s close!
Necessary requirement. If it’s not necessary, it’s not a requirement.
PIN number. Since PIN stands for Personal Identification Number, saying PIN number is saying ‘personal identification number number.’
We see, in advertising, ‘Your Free Gift’ Well, if it’s not free, it’s not a gift, and if it’s a gift, then obviously it’s free.
Thought to myself. Writers beware. Unless telepathic, you can only think to yourself. Telepaths are a very rare commodity, I think.
Finally, one heard on a snooker programme. The graphic showed a circular spot where the player wanted the cue ball to end up, and the commentator mentioned a ’round circle.’ Anyone know any circles that are not round?
I would love to hear any others you can think of. I know there are so many. Please add comments in the comments box.
I recently read a book in which the author made many mistakes in the word he chose to use. I won’t embarrass him by naming the book or author just in case he ever looks at this post. Suffice it to say that it isn’t the usual genre I read, being horror.
I actually found the storyline quite good and it read with pace, but here are some of the mistakes he made with words.
1. Traverse: Transverse
Traverse is a verb meaning to go across something, like, as in the story, a forest.
Transverse is an adjective meaning something that goes across something else. e.g. a diagonal line crossing a shape, or a piece of wood going across another to form a cross.
The author wrote ‘…the only way to transverse the property…’
2. Disperse: Dispense
Disperse means to scatter. E.g. The crowd dispersed in an orderly manner.
Dispense means to do without. E.g. As the weather was warmer, he dispensed with wearing a coat.
The author wrote ‘…dispersed with human words…’
3. Soul: Sole
This one amused me greatly.
Soul is the spiritual part of a person that carries on after death.
Sole is the base of a shoe, or the only one.
The author wrote ‘…rubber boots, their souls encased in mud…’
4. Boarded: Bordered
Another amusing one.
Boarded means to get onto a ship, coach, aircraft, bus etc
Bordered means to go round the edge of something.
The author wrote ‘Two candles boarded a statue of the Buddha.’
Forth is to set off, go or depart.
Fourth is the one after third and before fifth.
The author wrote ‘He dumped the first three cards and was in the process of leading the forth.’
6. Hold: Holed
Hold is to have something in one’s hands.
Holed is to hide away.
The author wrote, ”We hold up in my grandfather’s hunting cabin.’
7. Site: Sight
Site refers to a place. E.g. This is the site of the battle.
Sight refers to seeing.
The author wrote ‘He brought up the front site of the shotgun.
8. Crucifix: Crucifixion.
Crucifix is is the cross on which people were killed in Roman times.
Crucifixion is what happens on the cross.
The author wrote, ‘The priest stood next to the first crucifixion.’
‘A large semicircle with twelve crucifixions…’
‘Strapped to the crucifixions…’
9. Finally: Finale
Finally is an adverb. It means coming at the end.
Finale is a noun and it refers to the last act.
The author wrote, ‘The grand finally…’
10. Wetting: Whetting
Wetting means to put water on something.
Whetting means to sharpen something. E.g. a stone used to sharpen a knife is called a whetstone.
The author wrote, ‘…wetting their appetite…’
Those were the main ones I noted down, as well as some common ones like were and where, choose and chose and the inevitable loose and lose.
Now I’m prepared to be generous and say some of these might, just might, be typos, but even in that case, it was poor. The manuscript should have been edited better.
It’s things like this that give self-published authors a bad name. It’s easier to get a bad name than a good one, and very difficult to get rid of a bad name once it’s been established. Unfortunately, in many people’s eyes, self-published authors are poor and produce poor books, and it’s things like this that reinforce this opinion.
So please, please, please, if you are a self-publishing author, or are thinking of self-publishing, get your manuscripts edited and all corrections made before going to press with it. At least read through it properly and get someone else (as many someone elses as you can, preferably) to do so as well if you can’t afford a professional editor. I’ve never heard anyone say they couldn’t finish a book because it had no errors, but I’ve heard many say the opposite.
Please tell me what you thought about this blog. I’m always pleased to hear what you think.
Even More Commonly Confused Words
I was reading the BT news the other day. Their journalists ought to read this blog I think because they keep making errors. The first one here I noticed a couple of days ago.
The article headline said something like ‘A sneak peak at…’
Peak, of course is the top of a mountain, while Peek is a quick glimpse of something. Perhaps there was a mountain hiding behind another, or a very sly one that was hiding, but I doubt it.
To, Too and Two.
This frequently appears in comments by people, and also in, I’m afraid to say, posts by writers.
To indicates movement towards as in ‘He gave the parcel to me.’
Too is an excess of something. ‘I had eaten too much and so I felt ill.’
I don’t often see Two misused. It is, of course the number. ‘Two buses passed me before the one I wanted arrived.’
This can be a tricky one.
Breath is a noun and is what you take.
‘The doctor told me to take a deep breath.’
Breathe is a verb and is what you do.
‘The room seemed airless and I was finding it hard to breathe.’
Another one from BT news.
Baring is the act of making bare, or naked. It is also used when revealing truths.
‘Baring all, the spy held nothing back in his interrogation.’
‘She removed her clothes, baring all.’
Bearing is carrying. (or of course, a large mammal living in the northern regions of the planet.)
‘The messenger arrived bearing the news of the king’s death.’
Then there is the problem of the past tense of these verbs. The past tense of Bear is Bore.
‘She bore the news that she had not got the job with equinamity.’
BUT, the past tense of Bare is Bared.
‘During the investigation, the criminal bared all.’