I have held, for some time now, a hard-fast rule in my heart which says, “Don’t use ‘that’ for ‘which’.”
That is to say, when the word “which” works in the sentence, use it instead of the word “that.”
Strong convictions have cost me before. I’ve blogged about that here. But strong convictions that (ha!) get in the way of truth are…well, problematic, as a favorite video game character would say.
Doing a modicum of research might have revealed “that” predates “which” and “who” both as relative pronouns. “Which” first comes into use as late as the 15th century.
“Who” is now used for people, “which” for things, and “that” has always stood for either one. I got that bit of wisdom just this morning, which (ha!) is pretty eye-opening for me.
While this isn’t a big deal, it does cause me to question some other hardline rules I’ve held dear. I start to wonder, how many of them aren’t worth clinging to? Those “rules” about comma use, passive voice, “to be” verbs…all of ’em. I wonder now.
So, I’d like to pose a question to those of you who (haha!) are readers:
Do you take note of things like using “which” or “that” or “who” (or even “whom” for that matter) when you’re reading fiction? Does a use which (*snicker*) seems inappropriate or off throw you out of the story?
Or do you enter a fictive dream state and let the story carry you along more?
It’s always been a problem for me. When I hit a word I think is wrong, or something in the verbiage jars me, I’m knocked into “editor mode” and can’t remain in the fictive dream…provided the writing was sufficient to get me there in the first place.
Sound off, let me know. I’d love to hear your views on it.
Image from here.