When You Just Can’t Take This Any Longer

When your plot just won’t come together, when your characters insist on doing things their way, and when every last line of dialogue you write has been cribbed from Buffy, then you might think of imploring the creative Powers That Be to lend you a helping hand.

But how would you properly address them? You might think you would start off with this sentence:

“I can’t take this any more!”

Properly, though, your howl should have come out as so:

“I can’t take this any longer!”

What’s the difference? Why would you say any longer where you’ve always ended your desperate wails with “any more”?

The difference is that the phrase any more refers to amount. You might not be able to take any more (amounts of) chocolate berry blast Cheerios. You might not be able to take any more (amount) of your dog’s enthusiastic kisses. And you might not want to take any more (amount of) days getting up at dawn. All of these are amounts: any more Cheerios, any more kisses, any more days.

But any longer refers to time. If the Bradford pears have bloomed one day too many, then you can’t take the pollen any longer (in time): you’ll allot not one more day to suffering with allergies. If you’re at dinner with your parents and your father makes yet another crack about your lack of fiscal responsibility, then you can’t take his rudeness any longer (in time): you’ll never again put up with his criticism. And if you’ve been at your writing desk for nine hours, then you can’t hammer away at it any longer (in time): you’ll spend not one more minute trying to order your characters to behave.

What about your howl to the Powers That Be? Weren’t you saying that you couldn’t take one more minute of creative disorder? No: you were stating that you couldn’t take any more (amount) of your plot not coming together. You couldn’t take any more (amount of) disrespect from your main character. And you couldn’t take any more (amount) of uninspired dialogue. And when you can’t take any more (amounts) of that, then you can’t take it any longer (in time).

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