Feb 11, 2014
Grammar Hammer: More Than vs. Over
In a really great article published on Mediabistro, author Shawn Paul Wood narrows down the top five grammar issues that PR people still can’t agree upon. The one I find most peeve-inducing is the difference between “more than” vs. “over.” Just as Wood explained, I’d always learned that “more than” refers to quantities and “over” when it comes to spatial relationships. But according to my research, there is no hard and fast rule that fully sets the record straight.
My first line of defense is my handy-dandy AP Stylebook. It says, “See over” when I look up “more than.” When I look up the word “over” in the AP Stylebook, it says is “generally refers to spatial relationships,” but then offers the encouragement to “let your ear be your guide.”
If I’m letting my ear be my guide, I would never refer to my age as being “more than …” (come on, a lady never reveals her age). Let’s just say I’m “over 29” and be done with it. I would also never say I have “over 10 gray hairs” (which reminds me I need to schedule a much-needed appointment so I can cover up the more than 10 gray hairs I may or may not admit to having).
For as many references that I can find listing out the above rule (“more than” for numbers, “over” for spatial relationships), there are just as many that say it’s a style preference. I leave it to you, dear reader, to consult your favorite style guide (and your ear) to determine which word is best for the context and content that you are carefully crafting.
Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.