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Good English Tesco to ditch 'ten items or less' sign after good grammar campaign

Tesco has bowed to pressure from those lobbying for the use of good English and have altered checkout signs reading "ten items or less" in the interests of being gramatically correct.

From now on. signs in new stores are to say "up to 10 items" after a long running argument with those who have objected to the use of the word "less" in that context.

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   Good English

Many have argued that the signs ought to read "ten items or fewer" instead of "ten items or less". Their argument is that the word 'fewer' should be used when it refers to quantities that can be counted. 'Less', they say, should refer to quantities that cannot be counted.

The new form of words comes from a suggestion by the Plain English Campaign.

"There is a debate about whether the word should be 'less' or 'fewer'," a campaign spokesman said. "Saying 'up to ten items' is easy to understand and avoids any debate."

Guidance from Oxford University Press says: "Less means 'not as much'. Fewer means 'not as many'. This can be tricky when referring to quantities. For example, we say less than six weeks, not fewer than six weeks, because we are not referring to six individual weeks, but to a single period of time lasting six weeks."

Hopes that changing the wording would provide a satisfactory solution to the knotty problem appear premature with some critics claiming that the new signs are themselves ambiguous.

Some would argue that "up to ten items" could mean "ten items and no more" or "nine items or fewer".

A Tesco spokesman said: "The debate about what is right has been going on for years now, and I still don't think we know if 'less' or 'fewer' is correct.

"The new signs will be in the rolling out of new stores. We are not going to see any new ones in existing shops so shoppers in those will not see the change."




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