The words fewer and less are sometimes misused. Few and fewer refer to people or objects that can be counted and quantified. On the other hand, little and less refer to a small quantity, or something that can’t be counted. In general, less should be used to refer to time and money, except when referring to individual items.
- Our new Vice President is a man of few words and great insight.
- Why doesn’t this product cost less to produce?
- My granddaughter ate fewer cookies, but my grandson had less chocolate milk.
- I have less than ten minutes to drive there.
- She has fewer quarters than dimes in her purse.
There is certainly some grey area when it comes to fewer, few, little and less, since some things can be counted is some settings, but not others. When you know the rules, however, you can spot these grey areas and take the liberty to use which word will work best for that specific sentence.
“In writing we can usually take the time to choose among alternatives, and one might find it more elegant to use fewer rather than less in some instances.” ~Edgar H. Schuster, Breaking the Rules: Liberating Writers Through Innovative Grammar Instruction