Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Grammar Wednesday and Deana Barnhart's News

That vs Which

I've always been a fan of the word that. Some of it comes from doing city council minutes for years where we don't do dialogue even though that's really what we're taking down. Using that in this case takes the place of your quotation marks.

However, it's easy to go a little crazy with it when you're a writer. You can check out my findings in this post from last year here--and how many times I deleted that.

An option might be using which instead.

Believe it or not, there's a difference.

From the Gregg Reference Manual (aka Grammar Bible), p. 336, item 1062b [I added the pink and blue for effect]:
Which and that are used when referring to places, objects, and animals. Which is always used to introduce nonessential clauses, and that is ordinarily used to introduce essential clauses.
So what does that mean?

If the clause (something I would call an aside comment--kinda like this one) can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence, it's nonessential. So use which.

The building that is painted brown is for sale.
The building, which is painted brown, is for sale.

In the first case, you're restricting it to only that brown building. In the second case, the 'which is painted brown' is merely additional information about the building.

Since that is (usually) essential, you don't use a comma.

Happy News!

If you haven't heard yet, the awesome Deana Barnhart has an agent! And wait until you find out the process that led to this great event. You can check it out at Deana's blog here.

This Saturday I'm going to the Got Stories conference put on by Rhemalda Publishing. I know a couple of authors who will be presenting there. Should be fun.

What are you up to?


  1. I'm no grammer expert - far from it - but strangely I know when to use that or which and agree that the word 'that' can be over used. However, if someone asked me which one to use when, I wouldn't have been able to answer. Thanks for explaining it and making it all clear :)

  2. Thanks for sharing when to use both. In fiction writing I try to eliminate both words when possible.

  3. There are so many many many rules. So many.

  4. I wasn't fully aware of that rule, but I seem to use it some.

  5. I had 711 that's in my MS. After cutting and replacing with 'which' I had 520, still a lot but better than it was before!

  6. Interesting. I always have to highlight my "thats" when I'm editing b/c I use them too much.

  7. This is awesome Donna. I use "that" WAY too often. It's kind of a curse, but hopefully I'm getting better at excluding it.

    Also --- congrats to Deana!!! So exciting!

  8. I'm not sure why, but I had to learn to distinguish between that and which a while back. And it's one of the grammar lessons that stuck to me. I'm grateful because it's an important lesson to get right.

  9. Thanks for the grammar lesson. I'm always trying to decrease my use of "that." At times I overuse it.

    Congrats to Deana.

    I'll check out the conference page. I wont' be going, but I like to read up on conference info.

  10. Congratulations, Deanna!

    While I was reducing word count on my manuscript for THE CAGED GRAVES, I ruthlessly cut scores of "thats" I decided were unnecessary.

    My editor put most of them back in. Doh!

    I've got a request for a future Grammar post: The subjunctive case. Apparently, I stink at it. :D

  11. I guess THAT is why I favor which. Well, most of the time anyway.

  12. This is really informative. I was never that clear on the difference! I try to only use that as an adjective (like above) or as in "that hedgehog".

    I read Deana's news. Great story! Congrats to her.

  13. I use "that" too much. Darn it. Thanks for posting about this, though~ it'll give me another thing to check for while polishing my latest manuscript :) Heading off to check out that agent story!

  14. My issue is having TOO MANY thats in my mss. I have to go through the ms and delete a majority of the thats. But the ms always reads smoother without them. :)

    I'm off to check out Deana's blog.

  15. Thanks for the info. I never knew there was a difference between that and which other than what "sounded" right at the moment. Yes, I know. That's very technical! Congratulations to Deana!

  16. Wow! I'm sure glad I have an editor! I'll forget all of this in the next five minutes. Wait ... what were we talking about?

  17. Have fun at the conference! At some point I learned the difference between which and that and now if the sentence makes sense without "that" then I delete it! :)

  18. The overuse of 'that' is one of pet peeves! Just hoping over from Elana Johnson's blogfest . . . so excited for Deana:)

  19. I had to learn to delete extraneous "that"s. It feels to odd to delete them when they're grammatically correct, but the new standard is to use them only when necessary to prevent misreading. sigh.

  20. Brilliant. Great post and very informative. And congrats to Deana!

  21. "An impertinence up with which I will not put." You're right; "that" would't work very well there at all.

    And that's that.

  22. Congrats to Deana!
    Thanks for the which/that clarification. I forget it all the time!


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