Now that fall has officially arrived, I won’t be sorry to see the summer heat fade away. But will we have colder or lower temperatures?
People who like debating language can easily find little rabbit holes to get stuck in. The Associated Press Stylebook, which serves as the standard style guide that many newsrooms follow, can easily create such debates. One of their latest controversies is the ruling that you can write either colder or lower temperatures.
You may not think that would raise concerns. But consider the case of less or fewer. As a general rule, Merriam-Webster advises you use fewer when you refer to things you count. It says you use less when you’re referring to things you measure. The examples they give include “fewer problems” and “less time.”
Back in 2020, AP Style relaxed its rule on when to use fewer or less. It stated you could use the word less even when fewer is technically correct.
People are still fighting over that one.
The ‘colder or lower’ question could spark another argument
This year’s AP Stylebook is the first that carries revised guidance issued in 2021 about temperatures:
Temperatures get higher or lower, but phrasing such as warmer temperatures or cold temperatures is also acceptable.
If you’re looking at temperatures as a number, you’re probably going to insist that lower or higher temperatures should be the obvious, correct choice.
A lower temperature will result in colder weather. Likewise, a higher temperature will make the weather warmer. (And in the South, the addition of humidity makes that warmer weather hellacious.)
Still, fall and winter generally bring colder temperatures as the mercury drops.
I do prefer temperatures as higher or lower and weather as warmer or colder. But I’m not going to raise much of a stink about seeing higher or lower temperatures.
If, on the other hand, I see someone try to right higher or lower weather, that might just be its own blog post!