Grammar Tip #4: Less or Fewer

A lot of cyclists have a sticker on their bikes that says “One Less Car.” I fully support the sentiment, but the grammar sucks. It should say “One Fewer Car” or “One Car Fewer.” Why?

You use “fewer” when talking about things you can count, like bicycles or people or cars or traffic accidents.

You use “less” when talking about a quantity of something that cannot be counted, like sugar or happiness or guilt or rain.

“Less” is more commonly misused than “fewer.” These are incorrect:
More bicycles means less cars.
There have been a lot less accidents since they put in speed bumps.
There’s been a lot less people coming by the store today.

You can sometimes use “less” with countable items if those items together form a unit, like “less than ten feet”– the ten feet are not ten separate countable items, but one unit. Similarly, you would say something cost “less than five dollars.”

If you see someone hovering around a bike rack with a Sharpie, that’s me.

Grammar Tip #3: Its Back! The Confusion Between “Its” and “It’s” Rears It’s Ugly Head!

Did you spot the two errors in the title? If so, skip this tip because you do not need it.

At my day job this week I got emails from two different people, both extremely powerful and successful in their respective fields, yet woefully ignorant of the it’s/its distinction. Here they are, edited to protect the guilty:

I got this information from the Immigration office. Therefore, we don’t
have to worry about it’s accuracy.

The X Society of B.C. is hosting it’s annual conference at the Coast Plaza Hotel and Suites in Vancouver.

Then my dad wrote me this anguished email:

Sign at my apartment building: “Downtown living at it’s best.” I had to cover the apostrophe with a piece of white label.

(Isn’t my dad the best ever?)

OK, time to lay down the law (not “lie down the law”– see Tip #2).

Here is a simple way to make sure you use the right one. “It’s” is short for “it is” or “it has.” So try replacing “it’s” with “it is” and see how your sentence sounds.

I got this information from the Immigration office. Therefore, we don’t
have to worry about it is accuracy.

Downtown living at it is finest

See what I mean?

“Its” is the possessive form of “it.” So it means “belonging to it.” So the title of this tip could be read as:

The Back Belonging to It! The Confusion Between “Its” and It’s” Rears It Is Ugly Head!

And that is clearly not what I meant.

Word Under the Street Rocked!

Eve Corbel and I shed copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears preparing for this year’s WUTS, and it was worth it! We sold a lot of zines and fridge magnets and met tons of great comics lovers. The only not great things were a) never meeting Joe Sacco even though we “adopted” him for the festival–not that we ever figured out what adopting meant and b) people stealing two of the tiny notebooks I made and a number of bookmarks. Ah well. I am going to put the stuff I made for WUTS up on the site as soon as I figure out how to do a copyright watermark in Photoshop.

Here I am with all our stuff, hanging out with Jackson, who came to visit for a little while.


Eve graciously allowed Jackson to lick her eyebrow.