Oh no. That scream you just heard came from anyone in your company with a history in journalism, education, copy writing or editing. And it came in response to a decision by The Associated Press to officially declare that “more than” and “over” are now interchangeable.
AP Style tip: New to the Stylebook: over, as well as more than, is acceptable to indicate greater numerical value. #ACES2014
— AP Stylebook (@APStylebook) March 20, 2014
Let’s review why this is so very, very, very wrong.
But first, a joke!
— Mike Shor (@MikeShor) March 20, 2014
Would you write “attendance at the client’s event was over fifty people”? We hope not—unless “Ms. Attendance” had some dealings with those fifty unlucky people in the past.
It’s simple: “over” refers to an abstract physical or metaphorical distance: over the line, over the edge, over the limit, over capacity, etc.
When you’re discussing quantities, however, it’s always “more than”: “I ate more than thirty cookies, which was still more [cookies] than I ate on Monday”. The real confusion comes when discussing percentages, but you can solve that problem by thinking of each percentage point as a unit of measurement (which it is). Does “Holy crap, over half of the hairs on my head are gone” sound right in any way?
Now, we are far from perfect grammarians. The “but I’m a blogger!!” excuse doesn’t come close to covering our many, many linguistic screw-ups. We don’t even place all that much faith in the AP Stylebook, and last year’s triumph of “underway” over “under way” wasn’t such a big deal, really.
But this move is more than the line; it’s over we can take; we just can’t get more than it.*
See what we mean?!? Call us old farts if you want; we do have over 30 years under our belts, and we will continue to refuse to use “in excess of” because we don’t have over one brief life to live.
To further reveal our age, we’ll let Bill Murray explain what will happen next with a big hat tip to Mr. Martin Lieberman:
*Yeah, we know these are different uses of the word. Just let us make our lame jokes!