A Large Amount of Mistakes

Today I was reading an article online in Forbes. I expect Forbes to produce error-free articles, but an error popped out in this sentence:

When you stop to think about it, the sheer amount of websites can also confuse and perplex us.

Did you recognize the error? 

 

 

 

It's the same error I made on purpose in the title of this blog post. The title should be "A Large Number of Mistakes." 

 

 

 

And the Forbes sentence rendered correctly would read this way:

When you stop to think about it, the sheer number of websites can also confuse and perplex us.

 

You may be wondering why amount is wrong. It's wrong because amount is used for things that cannot be counted individually. Examples:

  • The amount of advertising on this website irritates me. (Advertising as such cannot be counted.)
  • I haven't made that recipe because of the large amount of salt it requires. (Salt cannot be counted.)
  • The amount of clothing she buys makes sense given her job. (Clothing cannot be counted, but items of clothing can.) 
  • The amount of chaos on the roads this morning made me wish I had stayed home. (Chaos cannot be counted.)

 

Number is right for things that can be counted. Compare these examples:

  • The number of popup ads on this website irritates me. 
  • I haven't made that recipe because of the large number of ingredients it requires. 
  • The number of skirts and sweaters she buys makes sense given her job. 
  • The number of accidents on the roads this morning made me wish I had stayed home.

 

Do those examples make sense to you? In case you have continuing doubts about how to apply the rules for using amount and number, here are examples from three respected style guides:

The Chicago Manual of Style: a decrease in the amount of pollution; a small amount of money; a growing number of dissidents; the number of coins in your pocket

The Associated Press Stylebook 2018: the amount of milk in the refrigerator; the amount of courage it takes to climb Mount Everest; the number of soldiers in an army; the number of books in a library

Garner's Modern English Usage: an increase in the amount of litigation; an increase in the number of lawsuits

 

Now it's time to test yourself. Fill in the blanks with the correct word: amount or number. These sentences are adapted from the Forbes article I am reading. 

1. Users can sign up to consume a vast _______ of tutorials from its palette of educational content.  

2. The company employs a large _________ of writers and editors that are constantly providing sound advice on every type of gadget.  

3. That's a vast ________ of data in the proverbial cloud. 

4. The _________ of quality-content sites, the type that many people visit on a daily basis, seems few and far between.   

5. There is a huge __________ of passive income to be made.  

6. It involves an excruciatingly large ________ of work for the average person looking to go it alone.  

 

Are you certain of your answers? Here's a little clue: You should have inserted each word–amount and number–three times. 

 

 

 

 

Do your answers agree with this key?

1. Users can sign up to consume a vast number of tutorials from its palette of educational content. (Tutorials can be counted.)

2. The company employs a large number of writers and editors that are constantly providing sound advice on every type of gadget. (Writers and editors can be counted.)

3. That's a vast amount of data in the proverbial cloud. (Data cannot be counted.)

4. The number of quality-content sites, the type that many people visit on a daily basis, seems few and far between. (Sites can be counted.)

5. There is a huge amount of passive income to be made. (Income cannot be counted although dollars can.) 

6. It involves an excruciatingly large amount of work for the average person looking to go it alone. (Work cannot be counted.) 

 

Many word pairs like amount/number confuse people. Check out this list of pairs that appear in my booklet 60 Quick Word Fixes. Could you use each one of them correctly? If not, get the booklet. Don't make a large amount number of errors! 

Lynn
Syntax Training

9 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much Lynn. I always follow your blog. I am from Turkey. I study English. Your blog helps me so much to improve my skills.

  2. Does it help to say that you use amount when referring to volume and number when referring to a group of individual items? I can count ten items which I consider ‘adverts’ on this page but it’s not the number which irritates as much as the amount of the page (and of my capacity for comprehension) they occupy. For clarity, your banners and similar are relatively unobtrusive and not irritating 🙂

  3. Thanks for the tip, Lynn. I missed the error. But, I stumbled on the word ‘also’ in the sentence.

    Peter — Still trying to learn English after sixty-four years.

  4. Elena, Debby, Walker, and Peter (D)–thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Debby, you may be right that “they thought there are so many that they can’t be counted anymore!” The author of the article also got Number 4 above wrong, which is about websites.

    Walker, yes, you have the idea.

    Peter, I’m glad you now know about the error. The word “also” would not have tripped you up in context.

    Lynn

  5. Gosh, I normally would not have noticed this when I’m reading, and I’m probably guilty of using amount/number incorrectly at times. Thanks for this grammar refresher! I’ll be much more aware of this now!

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