Thursday, December 3, 2009

Grammar Detective by Murriel Mapa

Waiting in the line-up at a grocery store should not normally lead one to think about grammar, should it? I didn’t think so either until I read the sign above the cashier’s head which read, “10 items or less.” This is a very common miscommunication seen in grammar: fewer or less? In this case, the word less is incorrect and should read, “10 items or fewer.” The word less refers to something that you can have less of, if it is singular thing, such as: less sugar, less hair, and less time. You can only have fewer items of a plural something, for example: fewer men or fewer shoes. In case you are still confused about which to use, Grammar Girl gives an excellent tutorial on exactly how to use the words “less” and “fewer.”

I agree with Sarah Maludzinski’s opinion that some mistakes can be humorous if you don’t understand the true meaning behind the statement. The picture above is taken from an article from the Daily News Tribune in Waltham, Massachusetts, and it seems to be a very serious article, but with the lack of correction in grammar, it can actually be construed as somewhat comical. Does this man have sixty lives? Or did he come really close to death sixty times and happened to keep count? After asking a few fellow peers about the meaning of this headline, many were very unsure and a few even asked if this was actually a phony article. Proper grammar and spelling is vital, especially in main titles or headlines because this is the most important piece of information that is supposed to convey exactly what the article will be about prior to reading it. Taking that extra bit of time to look over obvious errors in your work is something that everyone can manage to do, and it will almost always pay off in the end.


  1. I love the second example you used, "man died 60 times in 14 months." It's crazy how obvious some of these mistakes actually are. You really wonder how the author can miss something like that. Although it is pretty funny, it really makes you wonder how much effort is being being put into some of these articles.

  2. I'm glad that you pointed out the error in the "ten items or less" sign. I see similar signs all over the place, and they always irritate me. No wonder so many people don't understand correct grammar when mistakes like this are repeated so often.

  3. " died 60 times in 14 months." That is an excellent find! I was also happy to find out that I'm not the only one frustrated by "10 items or less" on express lane signs. It's hard to day which is worse: the rampant grammar errors we come across everyday, or the fact that so few people notice these errors.