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While talking about anonymous feedback on Stack Exchange, I wanted to say that there was more anonymous feedback than registered feedback, so I considered saying:

Anonymous feedback outnumbers registered feedback

This seemed not quite right, so I said:

Anonymous feedback... er... instances outnumber registered feedback instances

This seemed not really to be an improvement at all, aesthetically at least.

Perhaps talking about one kind of feedback outnumbering another is alright, or has some justification since the feedback comes in discrete units (votes). But trying this with other uncountable nouns seemed worse...

Helpful information outnumbers useless information

That feels wrong...

So, can and should some quantity of an uncountable noun ever be said to outnumber another quantity of the same noun? Is there a better alternative than forming some compound countable noun (perhaps replacing outnumber with something else)?

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    The quality or value of an uncountable entity can 'outweigh' the quality or value of another uncountable entity. But I see what you are expressing - the problem of 'enumerating' that which is uncountable. Gold is more valuable than silver but silver is more common than gold. The value and the tonnage can be expressed numerically, but the nouns 'silver' and 'gold' remain uncountable. – Nigel J Apr 12 '18 at 12:02
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Since outnumbers implies countable nouns, it’s not appropriate for the usage that you propose. Instead, use comparison terms that do not imply countability, such as exceeds or more/less than.

In cases such as your examples, I generally write/say “The amount of helpful information exceeds that of useless blathering.” or “There is more anonymous feedback than feedback from registered users.”.

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In addition to simply replacing "outnumbers" with "exceeds" or "outweighs," you could switch nouns, allowing you to keep the existing verbiage.

Anonymous-feedback respondents outnumbers registered-feedback respondents.

In this way, you change the noun to one that is countable. (Although I'm not certain if that's the change you said you wanted to avoid. If so, change "outnumbers" instead.)

  • Maybe "outnumber" there since there are many respondents. In this case, the people giving feedback are not necessarily of equal number to the instances of feedback (people may cast many votes, and some cast more than others) but I take your point in general. – Zanna Apr 13 '18 at 7:11
  • Yes, it should be the singular. I had overlooked that particular change in grammar as I concentrated on the other change. But with the change, it's not actually the feedback that the subject at all—only the particular groups of respondents. It could also be "responses," if you want to focus on the results rather than those surveyed. – Jason Bassford Apr 13 '18 at 14:35
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    "Anonymous-feedback responses outnumber registered-feedback responses." – Jason Bassford Apr 13 '18 at 14:52

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