Every week, I will provide one to two writing tips and/or resources to help people improve their writing skills. The writing tips I will focus on relates to the top writing mistakes people make. The tips are easy to follow, and a great way to avoid more formal grammar books.
Writing Tip #1: Working with Relative Clauses (Nov. 16, 2016)
One issue I see and hear all day every day is the usage of “that” relative clauses. It’s not unusual for me to edit stories or read self-published books that have the following:
We went to the people that brought us that gift from Target.
Looking at this sentence, you might be saying, “I think that sounds fine.” However, there’s one problem. People are not “that.” They are who or whom. So to correct that sentence, I would do the following:
We went to the people who brought us that gift from Target.
A relative clause is a dependent clause (which means it makes no sense on its own), also referred to as an “adjective clause” because it gives more information about a noun. When the noun is a person, you will either use who or whom. If the noun is a place or thing, you will use that or which.
Here are some more examples:
Michael is the one who gave me that ring last year. – correct
Michael is the one that gave me the ring last year. – incorrect
She is the one to whom I’m grateful for. – correct
She is the one that I’m grateful for. – incorrect
I went to the place that took my breath away. – correct
I ate chocolate chip ice cream, which is my favorite. – correct