Terms to watch out for

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few, fewer, less

The traditional rule is that fewer is used with nouns that can be counted:

fewer people    fewer samples

Less is used with nouns that cannot be counted:

less money    less oxygen

For percentages, use ‘fewer than’ if the thing being measured is a countable noun and ‘less than’ if it is an uncountable noun:

Fewer than 40% of people living in Geelong voted for the change.
Fewer than 80% of the apples are edible.
Less than 5% of the water in the dam was released after the downpour.
Women in the industry earn less than 90% of the wage received by men.


fish, fishes

Although often used interchangeably, in stricter biological usage, these 2 plural forms can have different meanings. Take care to maintain consistency:

  • fish: a group of fish of the same species
a school of fish [when all the fish are the same species]
  • fishes: several different species of fish
Sea fishes of South Australia [book title]

flammable, inflammable, nonflammable

flammable, inflammable: likely to burn easily. Flammable was introduced to avoid a false analogy between inflammable and words such as inactive, in which in means not. To avoid misinterpretation, always use flammable

nonflammable: not flammable

food allergy, food intolerance

food allergy (also called hypersensitivity): an abnormal response to a food that is triggered by the immune system

food intolerance: a response to food that is not associated with an immune response (even though the symptoms can resemble those of a food allergy) – for example, lactose intolerance is an inability to digest lactose in milk properly and is different from lactose allergy

food intolerance

forecast, prediction, projection

a statement of the likelihood of a future event under particular conditions that are variable or uncertain (eg if that happens, then this will follow)

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