'Fewer' vs. 'less'

While I'm complaining, I thought I'd share another pet peeve. Several times a week, my ears are assaulted by people misusing fewer and less. This is even true of my well-educated colleagues with degrees from prestigious colleges.

As Merriam-Websters describes, fewer "applies to matters of number and modifies plural nouns."

Less "applies to matters of degree, value, or amount and modifies collective nouns, mass nouns, or nouns denoting an abstract whole."

That is, if you can count the thing in units, use fewer, otherwise use less. Examples: "Fewer items", "fewer days", "less work", "less happy".

I'm sure I make lots of usage mistakes (probably even in this post), but this mistake just bugs me. It's so common that even M-W mentions the increased usage. Bad, bad, bad.

(As an aside, I'm sad the Encarta Dictionary didn't have any usage info on this topic. I worked on v1 of the Dictionary and had hoped it would grow into something more.)

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