Less and fewer are an especially confusing pair of words.  Both words have the same essential meaning—the opposite of more—but each word has a unique application.  In my experience, it seems the word less is used a lot more often than it should be.

If you are describing something that can be counted one-by-one, fewer is the correct choice.  Less is intended to describe things that cannot be counted.  Sounds tricky, right?  Here’s an easy way to determine which word to use: if you can add “one,” “two,” or any number to the word or phrase you’re describing, fewer is your choice.

Let’s consider water as an example.  One lake, two rivers, three streams—these phrases all make sense.  Lakes, rivers, and streams can all be counted one-by-one, so fewer pairs with these words.  But one water?  That doesn’t work. Therefore, less water is the way to go.

Nevada has fewer lakes than Minnesota.

I will add less water to the soup next time.

On the other hand, if you’re describing gallons of water, fewer is the correct choice, because gallons can be counted one-by-one (one gallon, two gallons, three gallons).

Here are some less phrases: less time, less money, less flour, less fear

Here are some fewer phrases: fewer seconds, fewer dollars, fewer cups of flour, fewer limitations

For those businesses seeking fewer missed connections and less stress, our grammar-savvy team of remote receptionists is an excellent solution.

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Solicitors are People, Too

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The solicitor is one of the many call types that, as a receptionist, I handle every day.  As a Ruby®, my goal is to handle these calls professionally, efficiently, and cheerfully.  There are a few things I like to keep in mind.

1) Whom are they calling?

Sometimes, the company that the solicitor is calling actually does want to talk to them.  After all, there are several reasons that you might just want to talk to that cold-caller.  I always try to keep in mind that not all solicitations are a bad thing.

2) Identifying the Solicitor.

Usually, a solicitor will ask to speak with “the owner or manager.”  At this point, I will ask the caller their name, company name, and what the call is regarding.  I always assume that they are any other caller until I prove otherwise, which means treating them with respect and speaking cheerfully.  There are two phrases you can use to ascertain whether the call is a solicitation.  Sometimes I say, “May I ask if this is a solicitation?”, but more often than not that gets a confused “Huh?” in response.  The other way to phrase it is “Are you calling to offer your services?”

3) Don’t Name-Drop.

If the call is a solicitation, and the business they are calling does not want to speak with solicitors, I always try not to name-drop.  The reason for this is that if a caller asks for someone specific, my screening techniques are different.  I only ask for the information that the person has requested.  Solictors are notorious for calling back several times, and even if you are able to screen them the first time, if you give out the “owner or manager’s” name, then you might not be able to screen the call the second time.

4) Declining the Call.

This is where it gets tricky.  When you have found out that the call is a solicitation, and you know that the business doesn’t want those calls, you are faced with the task of ending the call and asking the solicitor not to call back.  The phrasing I use is, “Unfortunately I’m not allowed to accept this type of call.  Please remove us from your list, but have a nice day!”  Whenever I can, I use the caller’s first name as well.

5) Solicitors are People Too.

Personally, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to make cold-calls all day long, getting shut down time and time again (and not always in the nicest way).  That’s why it is very important to remember that even though it is a solicitation, there is still a real person on the other end of the line.  I tend to be especially nice to solicitors.  The other bonus about this is that the screening process is fallible.  Sometimes a real caller can sound like a solicitor, and hanging up on a real caller is never a good thing.  But if you do make the mistake of disconnecting a legitimate call, then at least you’ve done it in a friendly way.

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