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January 27, 2012

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Actually, I'd say you can get more countable than calories. Though "calories" is a plural noun and thus countable, it's a unit of measurement that refers to something that's technically a mass, like "miles" or "hours." So you could make the argument that "less" is actually more fitting. I'd definitely go with "88% less," though.

This is fantastic. My favorite example of this trope comes from the car dealers: "Over 50 models under $10,000!" When I used to copy edit ads for a local newspaper, I went back and asked the sales rep if we could change it to "more than" and "less than," and I think he had to knock off early that day to go have a drink.

@Jonathon: Oh, I was just making a little joke about "counting calories." Pretty weak, I admit!

@Nancy: I'm sure I would've gotten it if I weren't feeling so sleep-deprived at the moment. :)

I think the "counting calories" phrase is so commonly used that you can get away with saying "fewer calories" even though technically it should be incorrect. As for the wrinkles, if you're going to say "fewer wrinkles" you might have to defend yourself from some irate customer who thought that four heavy wrinkles was more than twelve barely noticeable ones.

On a trip to Pittsburgh, I was delighted to see signs reading "Ten items or fewer" in the Giant Eagle supermarket. I asked to see the manager. I wanted to shake his hand.

@Alan: "10 items or less" is perfectly fine, says veteran copyeditor Bill Walsh, author of a couple of books on grammar, usage, and punctuation: http://theslot.blogspot.com/2008/09/fewer-less-complaints-please.html

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