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.