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Tips from the Grammar Guru: AP changes decades-old rule on over vs. more than

 Which is correct:

“I ate over twenty donuts” or “I ate more than twenty donuts?” Either, apparently.

Journalists have been weeping far and wide ever since the Associated Press upended their deep-rooted stance on “more than” vs. “over.” The AP Stylebook had long warned writers not to use “over” when referencing anything to do with numbers but have now ditched this rule. As of March 2014, the guide permits the use of over, as well as more than, to indicate greater numerical value.

Many journalists want to cling to tradition and are appalled by the decision, tweeting at the Associated Press with protests such as “More than my dead body!”

Copy editor Mark Allen, who goes by @EditorMark on Twitter, tweeted “AP’s ‘over’ vs. ‘more than’ decision acknowledges what most of us were doing anyway.” The aversion to “over” really served no purpose as both phrases make sense logically: “I ran over twenty miles.” or “I ran more than twenty miles.” The rule is the same for over/under: “I drank under five ounces.” or “I drank less than five ounces.”

Thus, when it comes to referencing anything to do with numbers, use whichever you prefer. We shall allow the words to peacefully co-exist (whether some of us like it or not).

Editor’s Note: MMC will continue to adhere to the original AP guideline for the use of more than or less than with any numeric value.

This post courtesy of MMC Summer 2019 Intern Bianca Price.


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