By Judy Vorfeld
“Fewer” should be used with a plural noun that describes a group of individual items that can be counted. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says to use “fewer” as it relates to a smaller number of persons or things.
Regarding “less,” it says, “The traditional view is that less applies to matters of degree, value, or amount,” but it doesn’t say you can’t use “less” with numbers.
Generally, use “less” with a singular noun that defines something that can’t be broken up into countable parts.
Other sources say: use “fewer” for things you count (individually), and “less” for things you measure.
Incorrect: Less than 25 people attended the event.
Correct: Fewer than 25 people attended the event.
Incorrect: The bill will be lower if we use fewer water.
Correct: The bill will be lower if we use less water.
Scriptorium says: Use fewer when referring to specific numbers and measurements, and use less when referring to general amounts.
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