Grammar exceptions

So after my run in with a very rude self appointed grammar corrector I posted a comment in the overnight thread on the blog where my public humiliation occurred. My post here was well received and I found the comments here very supportive, thus I was able to muster the courage to stick my neck out in that comment section. I had a beef and needed to get it off my chest.

Turns out the commenting community there was as supportive of my airing of my grievance as all of you were here, if not even more so. Part of my motivation to write a comment pointing out the rudeness of my earlier encounter was that I realized if I had been hurt or upset by this type of behavior, others probably had too. My realization was spot on and not only had others experienced such feelings as I, but the community overwhelmingly agreed that such a public correction wasn’t just rude, it was wrong.

Since I had been publicly scolded, I decided to Google my usage of less over fewer and learned for the very first time about countable nouns vs measurable nouns. However I apparently didn’t read far enough. One of the commenters knew more than I had researched and it turns  out there are exceptions to rules of grammar. I mean who knew? Exceptions to rules? Shudder.

After all of that, it appears my usage of less instead of fewer following a number is in the exception category. My statement about “three less votes” is acceptable under this exception according to Merriam-Webster, and therefore a correct usage. Here is the Merriam-Webster exception list for less vs fewer:

-Despite the rule, less used of things that are countable is standard in many contexts, and in fact is more likely than fewer in a few common constructions, especially ones involving distances (as in “less than three miles”), sums of money (as in “less than twenty dollars”), units of time and weight (as in “less than five years” and “less than ten ounces”), and statistical enumerations (as in “less than 50,000 people”)—all things which are often thought of as amounts rather than numbers.

The use of less to modify ordinary plural count nouns (as in “made less mistakes”) is pretty rare in writing and is usually better avoided, though it does occur frequently in speech.

But less is actually preferred in phrases like “an essay of 250 words or less.” It’s also—to the chagrin of some—the preferred choice in the supermarket checkout line’s “twelve items or less” sign. (Some grocery stores have apparently been convinced by the chagrin, though, and use “items or fewer.” They are still very much in the minority.)

Less is common following a number, as in “a package containing three less than the others,” and is the typical choice after one, as in “one less worry.”

A definitive rule covering all possibilities is maybe impossible. If you’re a native speaker your best bet is to be guided by your ear, choosing the word that sounds more natural in a particular context. If you’re not a native speaker, the simple rule is a good place to start, but be sure to consider the exceptions to it as well.-

One can read the entire Merriam-Webster entry  HERE .

So what I wish to convey with this post is while not only is it impolite and just plain rude to correct someone’s grammar in public, one had better be sure one’s correction is actually correct if one decides to be an asshole outspoken public grammar corrector.