Basically, Google Ngrams searches all of the 5.2 million books digitized by Google for whatever word(s) or phrase(s) you want to look for or compare. It then plots them on a graph. This is extremely useful when proofreading as it helps me to choose between variant spellings, particularly if an author has used more than one in their work.
Have a look at this example:
Charts like the one below also show which version of a phrase was in common use in a particular era. You can even use it to check whether a word you’re considering using in your period piece was in common usage at that time.
In general, it’s rather interesting to see how words or phrases have risen or fallen in popularity. Here’s the trajectory of ‘twerk’:
You can also search in many languages, including British or American English, and choose a shorter time span. It can even be used to explore cultural change and the popularity of ideas.
It’s a handy and rather interesting tool. Click here to have a go.
What do you think? Have you used it in your editing?
Often, ‘less’ is used when ‘fewer’ is meant. This is easily done, particularly as we are often taught that ‘less’ is the opposite of ‘more’. Basically, use ‘fewer’ when talking about a countable number, but ‘less’ when you mean something that doesn’t have a plural or can’t be counted: ‘fewer dancers have less visual impact.’
‘Fewer people are learning the foxtrot at school these days.’
‘The shop sold fewer feather boas than ever before this year.’
‘Fewer than one in ten adults can perform a proper samba.’
‘There are fewer dance numbers in films than there used to be.’
‘I dance to less pop music than I used to.’
‘There’s less talent than there ought to be.’
‘I should spend less time trying to do the lift from Dirty Dancing.’
‘Less’ is only ever used with numbers when they are on their own or used as expressions of time or measurement:
‘The tap class lasted less than two hours.’
‘She travelled less than three metres with that leap.’
I hope this will help you make fewer errors in the future!
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