Grammar/word use question

If I wanted to say “the plurality of my time was spent on X”, would you:

a) know what I was talking about
b) think that I was using it properly more or less
c) bat an eye if it was used in something formal like a personal statement?

Maybe this should go in GQ instead?

I would bat an eye no matter what the context.

While my online dictionary does give “a large number of people or things” as one definition, I have never heard this word used in any sense other than one that pertains to votes — where it has a very specific definition.

It’s very useful in that context, and I see nothing gained by trying to apply it to time, when other words would work just as well and not cause the reader/listener to stumble as I did.

I would wonder why you didn’t say majority and then I’d move on.

They don’t mean the same thing.

I’d interpret “the plurality of my time was spent on X” as meaning that more time was spent on X than on any other particular thing, while “the majority of my time was spent on X” means that X took up more than half of one’s time.

Still, I don’t think I’ve ever heard “plurality” used in reference to a continuous variable like time.

a) yes
b) somewhat creatively but since I understood it, I think it’s ok. The problem I would have is whether I trusted that you understood it, or had made the same mistake that Inner Stickler did. For that reason, it’s probably better to be less creative and more direct and specific.
c) I’m not clear what “personal statement” means in this context.

Majority doesn’t necessarily mean more than half. It can just mean the largest chunk.

D. trying to sound smart

This is exactly what I wanted to convey.

This is exactly what I wanted to check on.

Personal statement for my grad school application.

Desperately so? I chose it primarily because it was accurate but I can see someone rolling their eyes at it.

I’m sorry to say, but, yes, it strikes me as a over-the-top attempt to sound smart. I’d go with majority, like **Inner Stickler **says.

Are you perhaps British? I found the following on Wikipedia:

Also, it is highly dependent on how you define the categories. In elections, you have the various parties, and they’re pretty clearly delineated.

In time, is “sleep” a category? The “plurality” of just about everyone’s life is spent asleep. Do you break up “work time” into subcategories? Paperwork, conferences, maintenance, and, oh, yeah, actual productive labor? Or is it just one heap: “Work.”

These things will make a huge difference.

I’d say, “I spent the most/greatest amount of time on X.”

That way you get rid of that annoyingpassive voice at the same time.

It’s wrong. ‘Time’ is one thing, and ‘plurality’ refers to several things, specifically votes. If there are three candidates and 3000 votes cast, and one get 999, one gets 1000, and one gets 1001, the last one is said to get the ‘plurality’ of the votes, but not the majority (which would be 1501 votes).


My objection to the phrase hasn’t been mentioned yet. Like many, plurality refers to things which can be counted. You wouldn’t say ‘many of my time;’ you’d say ‘much of my time.’ That’s the reason that ‘plurality of my time’ is wrong.

Moreover, the sense that a plurality of votes is greater than that of other candidate is a secondary meaning of the word. The primary meaning of plurality is “the fact or state of being plural.”

Plurality is an extremely common word in lawyer-written patent applications. “A plurality of” means “Two or more.” Perhaps they charge by the syllable.

…sounds like something from the 1940s Bowery Boys.

Dumb, but OK if you got some exteneaten’ coicumstances.

I would say “bulk of my time”.

+1. It’s like the difference between “fewer” and “less”.

“A majority of people prefer cheesecake” means to me that over 50% of people like cheesecake.

“A plurality of people prefer cheesecake” means that some percentage of people prefer cheesecake, and that group of people is larger than any other group of people when grouped by favorite dessert.

Have I been wrong about this for a long time?

To the OP, I would say it depends on context. If you had clearly given us categories of your uses of time “sleeping, running, awake but not running” and said that “the plurality of my time is spent sleeping, and the minority of my time is spent awake but not running” I wouldn’t think it was an odd use at all.

I look at the post above yours, made 3.5 hours before yours, and I feel :confused: