Last month’s writing tip was on the quantity words “less” and “fewer.” This tip is also about quantity words. More specifically, let’s look at “amount of” versus “number of.”
Remember that quantity words are used to add information about the number or amount of the noun. However, choosing the quantity word can sometimes be tricky. The first step is to look at the noun being modified and to determine if that noun is countable (the noun can be made plural, often by adding -s or -es) or uncountable (a mass or abstract noun where the singular and the plural forms are the same).
“Amount of” can be used with plural uncountable nouns, such as “research,” “information,” and “evidence”
“Number of” can be used with plural, countable nouns, such as “studies,” “limitations,” and “factors”
For more information, see the webpage on count and noncount nouns. Of course, there may be exceptions from this prescriptive rule. You can look up the uses of “amount of” and “number of” in the Corpus of Contemporary American English for some examples. This SMRTguide on Using a Corpus to Revise for Grammar and Scholarly Voice shows a couple of examples of how you could use the corpus.
Revision Tip: Do a search for the words “amount of” and “number of” in your latest draft of your doctoral capstone manuscript. Then, take a look at the noun after the words “amount of” and “number of.” Is it a plural uncountable noun? If so, did you use the word “amount of”? Is it a plural, countable noun? If so, did you use the word “number of”? Revise as needed. Happy Writing!