Written by David Hatz, Teacher, Coach, Statistician (ret.)
Having spent the first 27 years of my working life as a journalist – reporter, columnist
and editor – before being reborn as an English teacher, it should surprise no one that I deeply
appreciate those who demonstrate command, both written and oral, of the world’s most
popular language. Equally not surprising is the fact frequent and flagrant transgressions cause
me to tear my hair out.
Note: If you know what I look like, you are aware that I am follicly challenged and will
soon be in need of a new way to express my frustration.
So I hope devoting some blog space to this subject will serve the greater good. Maybe
some of you will benefit. At the least, you may find the rantings of an aging lunatic mildly
And I can’t think of a better (or perhaps crazier) issue to start with than many of you
may not know exists: the difference between “more than” and “over.” Spoiler alert: The are not
“More than,” like “fewer than” refers to numbers/amount. Over, like its counterpart
under, refers to spatial relationship.
With this in mind, I hope you will understand why I experience a nuclear meltdown
whenever I hear a TV announcer say, “Over 50,000 people attended …” or “over 20,000 people
participated in the protest,” etc.
Wrong! “More than however-many thousand attended, participated, or whatever they
I learned this lesson the hard way.
When I committed this egregious error as a freshman journalism student at San Diego
State way too many years ago in a newswriting class, my professor read my gaffe to the entire
class. He then paused, looked me straight in the eyes, and asked:
“Mr. Hatz, would you write “The plane flew ‘more than’ the Pacific Ocean?”
“No way!” I laughed. “That’s stupid. It doesn’t make sense.”
He stared at me for several more seconds before replying: “Exactly.”
So, the next time you’re watching the news and the talking head onscreen says “… over
20,000 people …,” text, tweet, or email the station and set them straight. You’ll be doing me
(and the English language) a great favor.
Have a language question you need answered? Email me at email@example.com, and I’ll do
my best to answer it.