September 14, 2020

That vs. Which

TOPICS: , , ,


In professional editing, it's a mistake to use "which" in place of "that" in front of essential information, like, The thing which matters to me is family. You're supposed to use "that" because "what matters to me" is essential to knowing what "thing" we're talking about. But just because professional editors can't use "which" that way doesn't mean you can't.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click player above to listen to the podcast

  • Share

'As well as' can't do everything 'and' can do
Posted by June on September 14, 2020


“As well as” can join two nouns that are the subject of a sentence, “John as well as Jane is here.” In these cases, it’s hard to know whether you want a singular verb like “is” or a plural verb like “are.” Inexplicably, everyone handles these situations well.

But “as well as” can also add an item to the end of a list: “Specialties include pasta, steaks, chops and fresh seafood, as well as craft cocktails.” That’s where people mess up, instead structuring sentences like this: “Specialties include pasta, steaks, chops, fresh seafood, as well as craft cocktails.”

Notice how the “and” before fresh seafood has disappeared. The result: a grammatical error based on the belief that, because “as well as” works kind of like “and,” it can replace “and.” Not so.

“And” is classified as a coordinating conjunction and, as a member of that club, it has a special power: It can be used in lists to signal that the next item will be the last item in the list. You don’t say the flag is red, white, blue. You say it’s red, white and blue. You don’t say your piggy bank contains pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters. You say it contains pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

“As well as” can’t do “and’s” job in those situations because it’s not a coordinating conjunction. Some people call it a quasi-coordinator because it has some properties of “and” but not all. Here's my recent column with everything you need to know.

June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more

The Best Punctuation Book, Period

A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson

The most comprehensive punctuation guide ever, “The Best Punctuation Book, Period” doesn’t just cover the basic rules. It delves into gray areas of punctuation left unclear by the other rule books, showing how the rules differ in four different editing styles. There's also an A to Z reference of commonly mispunctuated terms. more

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite

What do suicidal pandas, doped-up rock stars, and a naked Pamela Anderson have in common? They’re all a heck of a lot more interesting than reading about predicate nominatives and hyphens. June Casagrande knows this and has invented a whole new twist on the grammar book. more

Mortal Syntax

Mortal Syntax takes on the 101 most frequently attacked usage choices. Dedicating one short chapter to each, Casagrande brings her subject to life, teaching English usage through lively and amusing personal anecdotes. more

It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences

Your story may be brilliant. Your insights may be groundbreaking. Your characters may be so real you can almost touch them. But they're not worth a thing if you can't bring them to life in well-written sentences. more

  • 'Whom' vs. 'Who' at the Beginning of a Sentence

    June A.S.: Everything you said is right, but I'm not sure which comment you're directing it at. Are you getting confused by passive voice as it comes into play in these sentences? "I called him" uses the object pronoun "him" because, as you said, is an object. When you invert that sentence to say "He was called," it's not the same sentence structure. In passive voice, the object of the action (so to speak) is made the grammatical subject of the sentence. So "He was called" does, as you said, required the subject pronoun "he." I don't believe anyone said anything to the contrary.

  • 'Whom' vs. 'Who' at the Beginning of a Sentence

    A.S. WRONG! If "Whom was called into the office" is a question then it's the equivalent of asking "Him was called into the office?" which is obviously wrong. If it's a statement it's still wrong. Look, it's not difficult: Me, him, her, them and whom are objects. I, he, she, they and who are subjects. If the person in the sample sentence is the object (as indicated by "whom") then the office must be the subject but there's no verb for the subject, so the person must be the subject and is therefore who. Understand?

  • E-mail vs. Email

    June Punctuation rules for American English are indeed "always" put the period or comma before the closing quote mark. British style is as you described (that is, it follows a certain logic). But American rules are rooted in a printing convention that originated from aesthetics concerns. I'm quite confident that this American convention will go the way of the dinosaur. Wikipedia is proof: Their style is situational in the way you described. But for now, it's the rule: The comma always goes "inside," as does a "period."

  • A Not-So-Thrilling Typo

    June Oops. Fixing now. (Better late than never.)

  • A Not-So-Thrilling Typo

    JR "An" Not-So-Thrilling Typo?