Who and Whom as Explained by a Comma Queen


"Copy editors never get credit for the sentences we get right, but confuse 'who' and 'whom' and you are sure to be the center of attention, at least briefly," writes Mary Norris, author of "Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen," in this week's New Yorker.

She's right, on several points. Yes, copy editing goes completely unnoticed when done well. Yes, the copy editor's work is cast into the spotlight only when she slips up. And yes, anyone can mess up who and whom, even a copy editor.

Norris, the longtime New Yorker copy editor who stepped down a few years ago, has some excellent advice for getting "whom" right.
"My test for the correct use of 'who' or 'whom' in a relative clause—'who I know will use it judiciously'—is to recast the clause as a complete sentence, assigning a temporary personal pronoun to the relative pronoun 'who/whom.' 'I know she will use it'? Or 'I know her will use it'?" Here's Norris's complete explanation.

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