Game of Thrones, Copyeditor’s Edition

By | 11th August 2017

While the television series Game of Thrones has much to offer — dragons, epic battles and gratuitous nudity, it also appears to be pandering to a unique segment of the viewing public — copyeditors. A subtle running gag throughout the series has been the grammatical correction of the use of the word “less” when “fewer” is meant. Although the rules around the choice between these words can get complex, the basics are as follows:

If you want a simple rule, the difference between less and fewer is straightforward: The traditional advice is that fewer is for things you count, and less is for things you don’t count… but another way to think about the difference that also takes care of some of the exceptions to the simple rule is to use less for singular nouns and fewer for plural nouns…Time, money, distance, and weight are often listed as exceptions to the traditional “can you count it” rule because they take less, but when you use the “singular or plural” rule, time, money, distance, and weight all fall in line.

There’s something glorious in seeing kings and knights taking time out for grammar pedantry.

Note: the short clips below are generally spoiler-free, but feature characters in locations, so if you’re trying to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers, view at your own risk.

David Crotty

David Crotty


David Crotty is the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He serves on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.

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