Slide over, sentences. There’s a new grammar hound in town. I’ve got the scent on some seriously sassy grammar statements about who versus that. Rules? Now, rules are meant to be….bent, twisted, flipped around, broken. Statements are like those theorems that you provide evidence for or against. And guess what? Writers like positive reinforcement. Generate positive productivity in your work day by supporting statements with pronouns you feel proud to use.
Between the Whos and the Thats
Let’s start with the subject in your sentence. Who or what are you writing about? Are they are a person or are they a nonliving entity? If you’ve got a business, house, or computer in place of the person in your sentence, then you’ve got a That. Who or whom only applies to an actual who—straight out of Whoville.
Those whimsical Whos, animal-like that they are, might not seem like a who to you. But don’t discriminate! Characters count. You’re a writer, right? A Who is a who is a who, and so are you…and you…and you!
Who’s a Whom, Again?
That is not a who. A that is anything that is not a who, whether you have a this or a that. Then what about a whom? What’s up with whom? Who on earth is using whom these days? Whom, my dear writer, is a pronoun on par with psychological isolation. Nope, not kidding.
One of the most important—and can we be fair here and say perhaps one of the only—anthropological-linguists had this to say. Edward Sapir, not to be confused with Edward Tapir, the fictional TED talk enthusiast and herpetologist dedicated to understanding the Amazonian tapir I just made up. Edward Sapir, our anthro-lingi went on to predict a century ago that we would not be using the word whom today.
Well, what the heck happened? Sapir, went to great lengths to expose the psychological isolation associated with using whom in place of other pronouns. Yet his own theorem on whom didn’t stick. Wouldn’t it be cool to know what Sapir had to say about the use of gender-specific pronouns like ze, sie, co, and ey? We live in a super exciting time of the reclassification of gender pronouns to best fit the who we are talking about today.
Keep coming back for the WriterAccess grammar tricks of the trade here every week for my fellow writers, the who of you all!
“Welcome. I’m the Whispering Wordsmith of the Woods, An Old Man Willow type cunning the lit forest, Disrupting textbookish writers with grammar snaps and cracks.” As a professional web content writer for small-to-medium businesses, Miranda B understands how to effectively balance technical jargon and personal brand messaging. Her content is sticky, evergreen when expected to be, and always creative. Keep ’em coming back for more, that’s Miranda’s motto!