Writing for Business

Mar 24 2014   11:53AM GMT

“Over” vs. “more than” — apparently, it was a thing

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

interrobang In a typical week, the State Department’s anti-malware programs intercept _______ 4,500 viruses.
a. more than
b. over

Answer: Either.

Big kerfuffle in the grammar world — the Associated Press (@APStylebook) just recently rescinded its rule that “over” should not be used interchangeably with “more than” when speaking of a number. That was big news to me, since I seem to have missed the memo in the first place.

How is it that I didn’t realize we weren’t supposed to use “over” in reference to numbers? I do not know — but it has always sounded natural to me and really doesn’t seem like it ever should have been prohibited. That may be partially because I’m what the Predictive Index people refer to as a “low D,” meaning I tend to favor informality. Which maybe should have disqualified me from editing or writing about grammar but … pfffft.

There’s been some speculation that other rules related to numerical values might be on the way out, that it might become acceptable to write “less than twenty people attended the meeting,” for example. And that’s where I dig in my heels. It’s fewer beans, less bean dip — and I hope never to see that rule rescinded. Even a low D can only go so low.

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