in reply to Can I clean this up??
From the docs, it can do it conditionally as such:
# CONDITIONALLY FORM THE PLURAL print "I saw $cat_count ", PL("cat",$cat_count), "\n";
Your conditional statement just wants to make the is/are look right for the end user -- now you've gotten helpful repiles for something that works specifically for the is/are part, but in the future if you need more flexibiilty you can consider the module.