I was very saddened to read that Eugie Foster passed away on Saturday. For a time, she was my editor at The Fix, a short lived publication that focused on reviewing the short fiction market. She also contributed a fascinating article on creative procrastination and Kanji to this blog many years ago. Though we lived in the same town for some time, we never met in person, not even when I attended Dragon*Con in 2008. Nevertheless, as an editor, she helped me refine my review writing and I can credit my limited success to her tutelage. My sympathies are with her husband Matthew as he copes with her loss after her long and courageous battle with cancer.
My latest reviews for WORLD Magazine are now available. You will find Terry Pratchett, Pierce Brown, Marie Brennan and Clark Ashton Smith along with reporting on the Hugo Award kerfluffle.
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.