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Saturday, March 26, 2016

New Example for Old Grammar Conundrum

Today's post is no great news flash. Visitors to this blog will learn nothing new. I wanted to post it, though, because it's an example of how easily some of the stickiest grammar (and therefore editing) problems can be explained and how a great example can make a huge difference:

Sometimes getting a homonym or other wordtripper right doesn’t take paragraphs of explanation. So you use “less” when you modify a singular noun and “fewer” when you modify plural nouns. 
June Casagrande, syndicated columnist of A Word Please and author of Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies (Penguin), gives this neat example: “If three items are removed from your cart, you end up with ‘fewer’ items. But if just one is taken out, there’s one ‘less.’ That’s because ‘items’ is plural and ‘item’ is singular.” 

I figure every English teacher should memorize this example, write it on their blackboard in permanent paint, and test their kids on it regularly. (-: 

 Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults, and speaks on issues of writing and publishing. Find her at Find the second edition of her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor: Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your bestseller. (HowToDoItFrugally Series of Books for Writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at , where writers find lists and other helps including , Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her SharingingwithWriters blog. She tweets writers' resources at . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:


Valerie Allen said...

Okay - got it! Good reminder and clever example. Thanks ~

Anonymous said...


Great Editing Is Great Marketing

Your First Marketing Offense: Write and Edit Great Query Letters