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Writers: “Amount of” versus “number of”

Syrniki. Syrniki, fried quark cheese pancakes,...

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There are a number of cheese pancakes in this picture: six.

The amount of cheese is in the recipe. You wouldn’t say the number of cheese or the amount of pancakes.

A number of mistakes in a book I read recently kind of bugged me. Overall, there weren’t that many mistakes in the book, but one kept coming up. The problem was that, while the author tried to quote statistics and make a compelling argument, she repeatedly undermined herself by misusing the phrase “an  amount of.”

“A  number of” things can be counted.

“An amount of” refers to a measure of volume.

For instance, there are a large number of armies on earth. The amount of their combined firepower is uncertain. There is a certain amount of apple sauce in this recipe. There are a number of apples in that recipe.

Is it a big deal? Not really, but it’s a distraction and your job, as a writer, is to eliminate distractions from your thesis or your story. As a reader, you’ll notice mistakes and that’s often what you’ll remember rather than the writer’s point.

Filed under: Editing, Editors, grammar, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , ,

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