As of 2014, 38 percent of the world's human population has used the services of the Internet within the past year—over 100 times more people than were using it in 1995.

According to what I've learnt, I would write "...more people than that using it..." to avoid run-on structure since there already exists one verb in the front part of the sentence. Is it an omission of "...more people than people were using it..." for simplicity? What is the real grammar or sentence structure underlying it?

  • You can think of it as a deleted form of "38 percent of the world's human population has/have used the services of the Internet within the past year (2013)—this equates to over 100 times the number of people who were using it in 1995." A highly deleted form. Aug 28, 2015 at 16:14
  • "A highly deleted form" - is there any rule saying how to write such form except personal intuition? Aug 31, 2015 at 1:41
  • Clarity and precision is the overriding 'rule', as language is primarily a medium of communication. Here, 'three times more people' is ambiguous: does this mean a threefold or fourfold increase? With 'over 100 times more', the looseness becomes less critical. Another problem would be another ambiguity: if the sentence read '– a 100-fold increase since 1995.' are we talking about a hundredfold increase in the actual number of users, or from 0.38 percent of the world's 1995 population? It is important to convey these things accurately. Grammar is also important. I'd replace ... Aug 31, 2015 at 8:56
  • 'As of 2014' with my above suggestion. I'd add the raw figure, using '38 percent of the world population' as an appositive. Then I could use 'This is a hundredfold increase on the number of people who used the Internet in 1995.' I prefer the style now also. Aug 31, 2015 at 8:57
  • It's bad writing to begin with. Do we really need the modifier "human" in front of population? Who else is using the Internet, penguins? Sep 28, 2015 at 1:17

2 Answers 2


I agree with your general point. However in your suggested replacement,

"...more people than that using it..."

The word 'that' would be incorrect because it is singular. You could say,

'As of 2014, 38 percent of the world's human population has used the services of the Internet within the past year — over 100 times more people than those using it in 1995.'

  • So is there a formal prescribed rule stating this kind of sentence structure since I couldn't find any in grammar books? Or is it just a kind of not-so-formal use, just like in spoken language one could be quite free in terms of using the language as long as the meaning is clear? Say if I want to use or write such kind of sentence, how could I know if it's correct as an ESL (English as Second Language)? Aug 31, 2015 at 1:39
  • Is "that" referring to people or 38 percent? Sep 28, 2015 at 1:19
  • @michael_timofeev: "that" can't be referring to 38 percent, because "that" refers to the people using it in 1995, which was only 0.38 percent of the population. If you dropped the word "people", you could use "that", but with the word "people" there, it has to be "those". Mar 26, 2016 at 12:33

If we strip the sentence of all the modifying phrases, we are left with: "38 percent has used the services––more people than were using it." The dash is now joining two independent clauses, which the dash doesn't do. Also there is a comparative "more...than" without a reference "that." Would this sentence be acceptable: "I like apples bigger than in my cereal." Or, "More doctors than are prescribing Xanax this year."

I would rewrite the sentence: "As of 2014, 38 percent of the world's population has used the services of the Internet within the past year—a hundredfold increase from 1995."

Dashes seem to be wild cards in writing: everyone has their own set of justifications / rules / recipes / guidelines for using them. Dashes are like like spicy foods––some people like them, others don't. This writer thinks of them like pauses http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/mad-dash/?_r=0, this website uses dashes to set off appositives http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/semi-colons-colons-and-dashes/ The trouble with thinking of dashes like pauses is that what follows the "pause" might be ungrammatical or unclear. A recent post about Wittgenstein's writing is a case in point Long dashes between sentences. I used the dash in my rewrite because I feel "a hundredfold increase" is further describing "38 percent."

On a side note, do we really need to say "human" population? Who else is using the internet, spiders?

  • 1
    Your last sentence has just killed me hahaha! especially when you've just asked the same question with a different tail question - penguins? in the above comment section. Sep 17, 2016 at 8:44

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