Class is now in session: Fewer vs. Less

So common is this grammatical error on resumes (and in life), I shall spend a few moments explaining the difference between "fewer" and "less."

I know, how exciting. (yawwwn)

But if you use both or either word on your resume? I think it's important to do so correctly.


The rule of thumb is this: Can I count it?

  • Apples? Yes.
  • Mistakes? Of course.
  • Beers you drank last night? Let's hope so.
  • Dollars in your bank account? Hopefully a giant number.

I know fewer people today than I did in high school.

I ate fewer potato chips today than I did last night.

The point is this -- Use fewer when it's a quantifiable noun to which you are referring.


Less is more for nouns than cannot be easily quantified with a NUMBER, such as:

  • Water in a glass -- I have less water than you.
  • How much it snows -- It snowed less last winter than this year.
  • Your patience level -- I have far less patience than you can begin to imagine.
  • Spare time -- I have less time than ever because of this darned job search.

Bottom line: Most people err on the side of using "less" when they should, in fact, use "fewer."

So go forth and review that fine resume of yours now. And make sure it contains fewer flubs than the competition. :)

(Photo: The New Yorker)