Who vs. That: The Grammar Battle Rages

Who versus that battle wages onWhen I first heard Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” I had to get a car jack to unclench my jaw.

But it sparked a memory and reminded me that I haven’t always had my “whos” and “thats” screwed on straight.

It was New York. More than a decade ago. 

A board member of the organization where I was interim executive director—who made her living in PR—saw an RFP I wrote and loved every bit.

Except my use of who vs. that. 

What?

I know. I groaned, too.

Turns out, I grew up in a world that didn’t care about — much less observe — the distinction between people and objects, and I was part of an eroding grammar norm.

That applies to objects. Things.

Who applies to people.

Think this is trivial? Beyond the scope of this blog?

You’d be surprised how many executives who work with me fill out their questionnaires and ignore the rule.

So Gotye should have sung, “Somebody who I used to know.” (Like Lady Gaga’s song “You and I,” should have been “You and Me.” Too bad it doesn’t rhyme, extolled here.

It stings. But once you adapt, you can’t go back. Plus, you’ll be swimming with the cool crowd. Or the dope crowd. Or whatever. Oops, whomever.

Until next time!

Jared Redick

Visit: The Resume Studio.com
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Are You an Air Quote Abuser?

Put down that pencil!

Put down that pencil!

Put down that offending pencil because today is Unnecessary Quotation Mark Eradication Day!

I’m here to single-handedly torpedo the use of unnecessary quotation marks.

Why, you ask?

It’s Friday, Jared, give us a break.

Trouble is, I know many executives—and even many fabulous folks who make their living writing—who “use” “quotation” “marks” “around” “everything” “they” “think” “we” “won’t” “entirely” “understand.”

The quotation mark, of course, is used to set apart spoken or quoted language.

Like this:

“Stop using quotation marks when they’re not necessary!” shouted Jared.

But somewhere along the way, quotation marks started appearing as air quotes in people’s fingers to symbolize nuanced communication.

Like this:

  • She’s a “dancer.”
  • The “gatekeeper” of information.
  • People don’t follow “bad leaders.”

So finger flapping naturally needed to shuffle over into our writing, right?

Wrong!

Using quotation marks to offset, emphasize, or enhance what is otherwise understood by a reasonably smart cookie (and who else would be reading our masterful work) is weak writing.

I’m not immune.

When I realized my own superfluous quotation mark abuse in 2000 (thank you Patricia T. O’Conner for your excellent work), I had a hard time breaking the habit.

I’d arrange cute little quotation marks here and there, then ask myself, “Are these necessary?”

Ten times out of ten, they weren’t necessary.

Air quotes assume our readers won’t get what we’re saying. (I was tempted to wrap quotes around the word get in that previous sentence, but you got it, right?)

Resisting finger flapping in writing challenges us to toss the crutches, and instead, write better sentences.

Wondering whether you’re an air quote abuser?

Have a peek at The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks (there’s a blog for everything and we love it) for improperly used, user-submitted quotation marks.

Now pick that pencil back up and get it real sharp. It’s never too late to be a better writer.

Semi-related post: Don’t Fall TOO In Love With Keywords

Until next time!

Jared Redick
Visit: The Resume Studio.com | About Jared
Follow: @TheResumeStudio
Like Us: http://www.facebook.com/TheResumeStudio
Connect: LinkedIn.com/in/jaredredick
Call: 415-397-6640