That, Which, Who, or What?

4 thoughts on “That, Which, Who, or What?”

  1. I use “who” for people. Always. It seems disrespectful not to.

    Agreed! But…”that” was used for people first. Weird, eh? And I have to confess, news to me. 🙂

    I’m going to struggle adjudicating “That V. Which” for the rest of my life. Like you, I erred in the favor of “which” unless “which” simply did not work in context.

    Oh, I will too. I always use “which” if it fits.

    I also militantly tried to excise all my extra “that”s. I felt I overused the word.

    Again, concurrence. I did too. And I see a LOT of writers – including those who are “accepted” and published traditionally – overuse it too.

    But I’ve softened. “That” is an empty calorie word. We agonize over usage as writers, but non-writing readers blow past it without noticing it at all. We overuse “that” in speech, for sure. Writers should be vigilant to not put empty calorie conventions-of-speech syntax filler in our non-dialogue internals.

    Much wisdom here. I guess it’s like “said” in dialog; readers don’t “see” it like they do a Swifty or weird tag. I also see a lot of empty calorie cliches and phrases in business writing or “official documentation” as people struggle to sound more “intelligent” or “official”, depending. Things like “in order to” or “for the purpose of” which simply…pad.

    Past that… I’d say “relax!” but you’re a bit more grammar-vigilant (see what I did there?) than I am these days. Then again, I’m just a wannabe so who cares what I think, right?

    I *should* relax. I really should. I think my fear is, as I relax my writing will regress instead of improve. Don’t know why, but “relax” sounds like good advice.

    And btw, some “wannabes” are better writers than those who got past the gatekeepers. I trust you more than you might think.

  2. I’ll add my old maxim: “Grammar is not a science. Grammar is merely a choice between prison factions. You’re gonna have to throw in with one of them, and as soon as you do, six other factions are ready to shiv you on-sight.”

    You know, I LIKE that one, Shawn! I’ma steal it. 🙂

  3. Hahahaha! Okay, I have to laugh, for how can I forget how you, uh, “encouraged” me to stop using ‘that’ so much in our first letters to each other? 😀

    AHAHAHAHAHA! Yes, how could I have forgotten those precious “that”s and “had been”s! You were so cute! 😉 Still are, actually. Free for dinner?

    I think most readers don’t stress over the words as much as you fear. And I think Shawn is right – relax! I fear you worry too much over finding the ‘right’ voice as opposed to ‘your’ voice. At the end of the book, people are going to care more about how the story made them feel than they are going to care about how many times you should have used ‘which’ instead of ‘that’.

    You’re probably right. Shawn really hit the nail on the head with that; it’s a low impact word. Maybe if you’re using them ALL the time they get distracting but for the most part, no one notices.

    And AMEN on finding my voice. You know, I still don’t know what it is? Largely attributable to not enough time spend fingers on keys, I’d wager. But if I ever find it, how am I going to know if people like it?

    There’s gold in your statement about how readers feel too. Making a story which plucks emotional strings is key. And I took a step forward on that front today when I learned your target audience is the one who wants the strings you’re trying to pluck, plucked.

    Love you, writer-man!

    Love you more, Constant Reader.

  4. I can’t recall being distracted from a novel by incorrect grammar recently, although I’m not sure if that’s due to the work of outstanding copy-editors or because I’m not paying close attention to that type of detail when I’m reading. I do make a point of trying to use “who” and “whom” correctly, for what it’s worth.

    You might notice grammar and spelling more if you’re reading “indie” books vs. traditional publications, Spark. Let me know as you progress. 🙂

    Who v. whom: It’s worth quite a lot, in my view. I still struggle with them! 🙂

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