Is it “number” or “amount”?

OK…this is not a technical post, it’s a word choice post.

I’m going to let you all in on one of my pet peeves … it seems that too many people who write about technology don’t know the difference between the words “number” and “amount”. A couple of examples:

  • What is the amount of NICs in that server?
  • The amount of TB of storage is surprising.
  • The amount of ways the problem can be solved…
  • The number of RAMs in servers today is amazing.

I could go on and on…but you get the idea. Let me make it as simple as I can:

Used for items that are enumerable – i.e. you can count them as 1, 2, 3. In the examples above, you can count NICs, TB, and “ways”, but you can’t count “RAMs”.
Used for things that do not have a definite quantity. Let’s use RAM as an example. [Q:] How much RAM is in your server? [A:] I have 64GB of RAM in my server.
Notice that you provide a specific number of GB, but “RAM” is not a quantity.

So please, let’s start using the right word in the right place! When you get ready to write a word that indicates a certain quantity of something – consider whether you can COUNT the thing(s) you’re quantifying. And just in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t matter that you can count DIMMs, you can’t count RAM!



About Ken Cline

vExpert 2009

11 responses to “Is it “number” or “amount”?”

  1. Virtual Office says :

    You should have put end of rant at the end of your post

  2. Mark Vaughn says :

    I knew we could count on you to write what amounts to a great post 😉

  3. Carlos Benjamin says :

    Is it “number” or “amount”?

    Well Ken, right your are. But, its better to judge the good intentions. If you understand what they are talking about …..then “amount” or “number” is good enough. Some day that revise this grammar and number and amount be normal in whatever sentence its used…everything is been simplifying.

    • Ken Cline says :

      Yes…to an extent. Language is a beautiful thing and the “simplification” that is going on is making it difficult to ensure that one’s true message is being delivered intact. There has always been a degree of ambiguity in the written word (and WORLDS of ambiguity in the spoken word!). I understand that intent is king, but people should know the true meanings of words and use them appropriately whenever possible…

  4. chuckk281 says :

    Have you done any other posts lately. The last I have been able to find was this December post. Can I refer to these posting in my Blade Connect community.

    • Ken Cline says :

      Hi Chuck….nope. I’ve been busy (read “lazy”) and haven’t put pen to paper recently. Please feel free to reference anything you want from the site.

  5. peter says :

    Kreativ, innovativ und engagiert arbeiten wir für Ihren Erfolg. Als aufstrebendes Unternehmen der Internetbranche hilft basemedia Ihnen, Ihr Unternehmen beziehungsweise Ihre Produkte werbewirksam auf dem öffentlichen Markt zu positionieren.

  6. ITforMe says :

    Ken, please start writing again! Your “Great vSwitch Debate” series of posts was one of the best articles I’ve ever come across, and something I’ve referred to on many occasions.

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  1. Is it “number” or “amount”? | Revolusionline - December 4, 2011

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