Utilizing Brigham Young University’s Corpus of Contemporary American English, I have attempted to use usage data to come to a better understanding of the common rule regarding the use of “less” or “fewer” when describing nouns. This analysis is by no means exhaustive, but is meant to serve as a data point in the ongoing discussion over usage. Links to the data have been included where appropriate, though users will need Corpus access to see them. 250 terms were analyzed per search term in order to provide a large enough representative sample.
Rule: “Less” is to be used adjectivally only with nouns that that can’t be counted and “fewer” is to be used adjectivally only with nouns that can be counted.