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That/Which

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message 1: by Jason (last edited Oct 14, 2016 05:39PM) (new)

Jason Whited | 4 comments Mod
Welcome to our new group!

Because scores of you have been asking me for months to beef up the writing tips I share on Twitter and Facebook, I'm taking this opportunity to do just that.

So welcome to this, today's inaugural post on Ask the Editor. Our first-ever lesson is huge. I'm going to walk you through one of the biggest stumbling blocks faced by writers: the correct use of that and which.

Now, these two pronouns trouble writers to no end, but it doesn't have to be this way. Once you get a handle on handling these two grammatical bugbears, you'll be whipping out clauses like a boss—unafraid anymore and confident that you've conquered a conundrum that besets nearly everyone who's ever touched a keyboard.

Let me break it down like a fraction for ya:

Use that to set off so-called essential clauses (an essential clause is just an uptown way of saying a group of words that are important to the meaning of a sentence). And you don't need commas when that introduces essential clauses.
Ex: I'll never forget the day that I first saw her face.

Use which to set off so-called nonessential clauses (a nonessential clause is just another uptown synonym for a group of words that are not as important to the meaning of a sentence). But you do need commas when which introduces nonessential clauses.
Ex: The band, which used to suck, managed to dig deep and release an important song.

See the difference here? In the first example, the essential clause I first saw her face (introduced by the pronoun that) is crucial to the meaning of the overall sentence. Without those five little words, we'd have no idea the day the writer is trying to describe to us. Hell, it could be any day of the year. But with the addition of that essential clause (again intro'd by that) we know precisely the day the writer is describing.

Let's look briefly at the second example. The nonessential clause here is used to suck, and we could leave it in or keep it out—it wouldn't matter either way to the overall meaning of the sentence. You dig? And since it's . . . drum roll . . .nonessential, we set it off with a comma and the pronoun which. When using nonessential clauses, always set them off with commas followed by which).

Bingo. Done and dusted. Now, you've got it. Right?
You just mastered one of the most common grammar mistakes made by nearly every big-name author out there.

If you need more help, I'm always here for you. Just message me or email me at my site, which is www.jason-whited.com.

So what are you gonna do now that you're armed with this brand-new knowledge? I'll tell ya: You're gonna get out there, sit down in front of those keyboards, and whip up a bunch of essential and nonessential clauses that will ONLY enrich your writing and keep your readers coming back for more. I believe you can do it.

So come on, which grammatical problems are bugging you in your latest writing? Feel free to start new discussion threads with your questions!

Grammatically yours,

Jason


message 2: by Harlow (new)

Harlow Fallon (harlowcfallon) | 1 comments Thank you, Jason. I do get mixed up on these from time to time. I appreciate the way you've broken it down for us.

I'm looking forward to being a part of this group.


message 3: by Jason (last edited Oct 14, 2016 03:10PM) (new)

Jason Whited | 4 comments Mod
Thanks, Harlow!
I'm looking forward to all the great discussions we'll have here.


message 4: by Ronnie (new)

Ronnie Roberts | 1 comments Ha ha - "which used to suck" - that'll stick my head for a while.
Thanks Jason!


message 5: by Jason (last edited Oct 14, 2016 04:20PM) (new)

Jason Whited | 4 comments Mod
Ha! Thanks, Ronnie!
See? You get grammar pointers AND free "mind worms" to boot!
No one ever said I'm not a full-service editor!


message 6: by G.H. (new)

G.H. Eckel (gheckel) | 2 comments I appreciate this forum. thanks for doing it. Now, why aren't the following both correct? "I'll never forget the day that I first saw her face." "I'll never forget the day I first saw her face."


message 7: by Craig (new)

Craig Jr. (craigapricejr) | 1 comments I've been told by many people to limit the number of that's in your work. So like your sentence, G.H., since you can remove the "that" and it still make sense. That's what I would do. Otherwise, you'll do a word search for "that" and find more than you imagined.


message 8: by G.H. (new)

G.H. Eckel (gheckel) | 2 comments Craig wrote: "I've been told by many people to limit the number of that's in your work. So like your sentence, G.H., since you can remove the "that" and it still make sense. That's what I would do. Otherwise, yo..."

That's my preference too. Thanks!


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