Less or Fewer? A Company Name gone Wrong

Today at LSE library, I noticed an advertisement at the inside of a toilet door (the location might have been a foreboding) for a company that offers proofreading services: “Less Silly Errors: Proofreaders of Academic Essays”:

Obviously, this company wanted to profit from the aura of somehow being associated with the abbreviation “LSE” but if you are trying to sell your expertise as a proofreader, this is a company name gone badly wrong.

“Less” is used when referring to something that cannot be counted (unless measured in units) or doesn’t have a plural. “Fewer” is used for nouns in the plural.

Examples: I spend less time on the internet than before and have to deal with  fewer e-mails than I used to. – I have less money now than when I used to work as a lawyer but I also have fewer sleepless nights.

“Errors” can obviously be counted, so it should read “Fewer Silly Errors“. The abbreviation “FSE” wouldn’t associate the company with the London School of Economics, but with Feline Spongiform Encephalopathy, which might be more appropriate.

I recommend this company for a prize for “Maximum Incompetence already displayed in the Company Name“.

If you want serious academic writing, proofreading or editing, you do better to e-mail me for a quote.

(In the interest of journalistic fairness, I have contacted “Less Silly Errors” and invited them to comment. They responded by asking me if I want to work for them. I declined.

But three years later, in June 2014, I got this message from “Less Silly Errors”:

Hi Andreas,

It’s been three years now and your post is harming my company’s visibility in search engine result pages.
If you take the name literally then you are correct. I am an American so I don’t follow your literal mindset. You are incorrect in the intended sense. The name is a play on words intended to signify the tutorial feedback provided i.e. logical reasoning, premises, thesis, structure advice. Seriously, it’s the less obvious errors that students make!
It’s a bad name because some lawyer has posted a high ranking post incorrectly attacking the company name without considering that the company is someone’s sole source of income.
I respectfully request that you take this post down, please?
Many Thanks for Your Help,
Matt

Matt
LSE Proofreaders

I assume Matt heard about the ECJ’s ruling on “the right to be forgotten”, not that it applies in this case because he is still using the same company name, so nothing is outdated or obsolete. – In any case, so far he hasn’t made any offer yet which I couldn’t refuse.)

About Andreas Moser

You will most likely find me in the forest, next to the lake, reading a book. Just follow the cigar smoke!
This entry was posted in Education, Language and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Less or Fewer? A Company Name gone Wrong

  1. John Erickson says:

    May I be nasty, and offer proof-reading services for free? ;) Maybe I shouldn’t, thinking of the old phrase “you get what you pay for”. :D
    Thanks for the explanation of the significance of the acronym LSE. I wasn’t certain at first why those three letters should be prestigious.
    I think you hit the target squarely, with your observation of WHERE this company decided to place their ad. Guilt by association?

  2. Tom Fuszard says:

    A very glaring error, Andreas. As you noted, the author tried use the institution’s abbreviation in a creative manner. Unfortunately, the result was a mistake, and one that showed up in a prominent way. Ouch!

    • They also refer to the London Stock exchange on their website, adding “While we are not directly affiliated with either institution, we believe in their high standards.” – That’s like a small bicycle company putting a Porsche sign on their shop window. Also, I actually wonder about the alleged “high standards” of both institutions.

  3. Liam Buckley says:

    “Less” is acceptable with countable nouns in English, and has been acceptable for as long as there has been an English language.

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=557
    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=552
    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003775.html

  4. Rosemary Wilson says:

    It could simply mean that they will remove the really silly mistakes, but leave in the less silly ones. Possibly.

  5. Thomas says:

    Apparently, they have taken a lot of stick for their name over the last couple of years and try to explain it on their website (http://lesssillyerrors.com/what-a-silly-name-our-disclaimer) by arguing they will take care of those “less silly” mistakes, ie. the less obvious ones, the mistakes only a trained eye will catch.

    Also, I think the name will leave many people somewhat confused over whether “less” or “fewer” mistakes is correct which in turn might make them realize that having your work proofread by a professional might not be such a bad idea after all. It is not unusual for proofreading service providers to build obvious and intentional errors into their marketing copy (which, however, was not the intention in this case – according to their own explanation).

  6. Stewie says:

    I’d only just got over the death of my dear Snuggles, when you had to insensitively bring up FSE and open an old wound. Oh the pain!

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