Writing for Business

Dec 2 2009   9:06PM GMT

Less or fewer than 40 percent?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
If ____ than 40 percent of the households in your area have broadband service, you’re in an underserved area.
a. less
b. fewer

Answer: b

Although we think of percentages as single quantities rather than countable, when they refer to something countable — in this case, households — fewer is the correct choice. (Source: AP Stylebook)

So you would say:

  • fewer than 40 percent of households
  • less than 40 percent of building materials
  • fewer than 40 percent of Christmas lists
  • less than 40 percent of good behavior
  • fewer than 40 percent of potluck dinners
  • less than 40 percent of the jello mold (much less for me, thanks — is zero a percentage?)

See more about fewer vs. less and percentages.

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