Confusing Content

I was working on a proofreading project recently when I ran across the following mistake:


            “Click here to review the content of your shopping cart”


Can you spot the error?


The sentence should read, „Click here to review the contents of your shopping cart.“ At the same time one would not say, „His blog regularly features new contents.“  So what’s the difference between content and contents? Read on to find out:


content v/s contents – getting it right:


Content is a word that has a range of meanings in English. It can be a verb (mit Betonung auf der 2. Silbe im Sinne von befriedigen), an adverb (mit Betonung auf der 2. Silbe im Sinne von zufrieden) or a noun (auch mit Betonung auf der 2. Silbe im Sinne von Zufriedenheit)—but when it comes to the noun content im Sinne von Inhalt (mit Betonung auf der 1. Silbe), things start to get tricky:


Content in this sence refers to the things that are held or contained in something.


1).   The noncount noun content refers, for example, to the ideas contained in a film, text, speech, etc., or to the physical substance of an object:


  • This film’s content isn’t appropriate for viewers under the age of 18.
  • Their sandwiches have an astronomically high salt content. Let’s eat somewhere else!
  • He adds fascinating new content to his blog every week.


2).  The count noun content, on the other hand, is pluralized as contents – and refers to the items physically contained within something as in the following examples:


  • To find out if that topic is covered in the book, refer to its Table of Contents.
  • Upon Ms. Stickyfingers’ arrest, the officers confiscated the contents of her conspicuously oversized handbag.
  • When my Aunt Mildred, a notorious hoarder, passed away, I was charged with the thrilling task of disposing of the contents of her apartment.