Who vs. That: Another Grammar Lesson

Image from: blogs.ajc.com
For some reason I’ve been having trouble with when to use who and when to use that lately. I used to have it down, but just like the one time in high school I wrote an entire paper without using than (I had convinced myself it wasn’t a word…), I’ve gotten myself mixed up.

Luckily for me a quick Google search helped me remember what I already knew and cleared away the confusion.

The simple answer is Who is for people. That is for objects.

The more complicated answer is addressed by my favorite Grammarian, Grammar Girl (post can be found here). She found that according to the Heritage Dictionary, “It is entirely acceptable to write either the man that wanted to talk to you, or the man who wanted to talk to you.”

Grammar Girl determined it is a bit of a grey area. “My guess is that most people who use who and that interchangeably do it because they don’t know the difference,” she wrote. “To me, using that when you are talking about a person makes them seem less than human.”

Something else I learned in her post, “whose, which is the possessive form of who, to refer to both people and things because English doesn’t have a possessive form of that. it’s fine to say, ‘The desk whose top is cluttered with grammar books,’ even though it is obviously ridiculous to say, ‘The desk who is made of cherry wood.’” I didn’t know that!

Bottom line: who is for people. That is for objects.


Another Thing I Love About Twitter

From: consumercentric.biz
Several people I know have had the amazing opportunity to attend some excellent conferences. Normally, I would be super jealous, but thanks to Twitter, I can tag along!

I’ve been following #mmcon10 the hashtag for the ASAE Marketing & Membership Conference. While I am not getting the whole conference experience, I am able to get the take away nuggets of wisdom that tweeps share. And they are sharing! I’ve got pages and pages of notes, quite like I would if I had actually attended the event.

I’d like to just take a moment and state for the record that I do not think Twitter devalues the conference or will ever replace conferences in general. I do think that Twitter allows those of us not lucky enough to be in attendance the opportunity to see what we’re missing.

In a way, it is a win-win for the organization. In this specific case, people who can’t attend the conference are still paying attention to the content and are probably more likely to attend in the future.

I hope this trend of sharing continues.

Over vs. More Than: A Grammar Lesson

This is a pet peeve of mine. It drives me crazy. I hear it all the time. In advertisements, in the media and in every day speech.

I try not to correct people when they’re speaking, but it isn’t always so easy to bite my tongue. The only thing I can do is try to get a read on person and situation and see if they would appreciate the help or be offended. More often than not, the person would be offended and so I keep my mouth shut.

The best way I’ve found to remember which to use is this: more than is for quantity and over is for jumping. The cow jumped over the moon.

Now there are some experts that claim that over has been used to describe quantity since Old English. The AP Stylebook disagrees. “Generally refers to spatial relationships,” and more than “is preferred with numerals.”

I’m going to go with the AP Stylebook on this one.

Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

Photo from: cybernetnews.com
To tell someone about a grammar or spelling error or not to tell, is one tough question with no right or wrong answer.

I’ve found it all depends on your personal relationship with the person and whether or not you think they would take it personally.

For some, having these mistakes pointed out is akin to that dreaded elementary school spelling test or the red ink filled paper from college. It doesn’t have to feel that way.

I am the first to admit, I’m not perfect. While I write for a living, I know I often need an editor. I’ve had people politely point out errors on this blog and make sure I have at least one other person look over any material that leaves the office. I really appreciate having the chance to change mistakes.

Maybe it is the years of journalism editors or turning a story in at deadline only to have the copy editors go through the copy after I’ve left for the day, but the point is I don’t take it personally when someone points out an error.

Most of the people I polled informally on Twitter agree if done politely, even by a stranger, pointing out a mistake is welcome.

The difference comes in how the stranger points it out.

“I think I’d be ok if it were a private message,” said Rachel Lawley, an Interactive Communications Manager who works as a consultant in business development.

No matter who points out the mistake or how they do it, unless they are wrong or rude, most people I polled said they would change the mistake.

Theater vs. Theatre: Another Grammar Lesson

Photo from: theatreorgans.com
This recently came up in the office and included a heated debate between a person who fancies themself as a thespian and a former movie theater employee.

Thank goodness for Google, or this argument might have really gotten out of hand. The following is a generalization. I’ll even provide a few examples when the generalization doesn’t hold.

Theater is a location. As in the Stadium Movie Theater. The Drive-In Theater. Unfortunately, my next example, Akron Civic Theatre, throws the whole thing off.

Theatre is the act of theater. As in a play, a musical, a live performance.

The more I delved into this topic (obviously after the argument was settled), the more I realized that the difference seems to be more preference than anything else.

So whether you write theatre or theater, just be consistent.