Ask Me a Question

If you have a writing, grammar, style or punctuation question, send an e-mail message to curiouscase at sign hotmail dot com.

Add Your Own Criminal Sentence!

If you find a particularly terrible sentence somewhere, post it for all to see (go here and put it in the Comments section).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Criminal Sentence 345: Size Matters

From an article in the paper:

"The complaints are small compared with the number of vehicles involved."

Were the complaints teeny tiny, itsy bitsy? Or were there just not that many?

An apple can be small, but complaints must be few if you're talking about amount.

I know why the writer used "small" instead of "few." See how the sentence sounds with the correct word:

"The complaints are few compared with the number of vehicles involved."

A little fuddy-duddy, eh? (Had to put that in as a nod to the Vancouver Olympics.) If you don't like using "few," then you can recast the sentence:

"When you consider the amount of vehicles involved, not very many actual complaints were registered."


Anonymous said...

Even the final recasting sounds wrong to me. "Amount" and "number" seem to be misused frequently in recent years. One can have an amount of cash (money), an amount of liquid (as in a recipe), and some amount of courage. Then one may also have a number of friends, any number of pets, and a number of vehicles (cars). To hear or read about an "amount of vehicles" does not add up in my mind.

krishna said...

How about using "less" instead of "few"


The Sentence Sleuth said...

Sorry, but I don't think "less" sounds very good. "Less" goes with uncountable items such as "sugar" and "flour." You'd have to use "fewer" with countable items like "complaints" and "compliments."