At first glance, there might not appear to be a difference between that and which, two relative pronouns used to introduce a dependent clause in a sentence. But in careful writing, that and which have distinct uses that can drastically change the meaning of a sentence.
To be fair, writers in the UK may already be perplexed by this question, given that in British English, the words are more or less interchangeable. However, in North American English, there is a major distinction between the relative pronouns that and which. Continue reading “The Difference Between That and Which”
Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes have been around for quite some time, but contemporary writers are not always sure how they should be used or what the difference is between them.
Are These Really That Different?
They are! Despite their having been around for a long time, many people today are not familiar with their use for one main reason: the typewriter.
Space limitations on the typewriter meant that not every character could be represented. Some characters had to do double duty:
- The numeral l was provided by the lowercase l
- The exclamation point ! was provided by the . and then backspacing to type ‘
- The en and em dashes were made by typing the hyphen – twice (- -) and three times (- – -)
But because there was only one – key on the keyboard, the differences in the usages of hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes were lost. Our modern computer keyboards still lack these symbols as separate characters, and although there are some workarounds (such as typing two hyphens in rapid succession to produce an em dash or using ALT codes), our general familiarity with these symbols and their use remains lacking.
Fortunately, we’re here to help. Continue reading “Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes: What’s the Difference Between -, –, and —?”
Some punctuation marks are pretty straightforward—the period, the comma, the exclamation point (unless you’re Elaine Benes). And there are those marks that few know how to distinguish (the hyphen, en-dash, em-dash). But then there are those that are used all the time, but many people are unsure how they’re supposed to be used, like the semicolon. So, how are we supposed to use semicolons? Continue reading “How Are We Supposed to Use Semicolons?”
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!Star Trek, 1966–1969
With these words a new era in science-fiction was launched, and the mission not only of the Enterprise but of an entire franchise was declared.
But these words also irritated an awful lot of grammar purists.
“To boldly go?” they objected. “That’s a split infinitive. That’s bad grammar!”
But why? What is so wrong with saying to boldly go? To understand that, you have to understand something about the history of English. Continue reading “To Boldly Split Infinitives”
No one disputes that good writing has to have good grammar. But what do we mean when we say “grammar”? It may not be what we’re used to thinking it is.
Take, for example, the following pairs of sentences. In each pair, make note of which one is grammatical.
- Who are you going to the dinner with?
- With whom are you going to the dinner?
- He wanted to completely destroy the enemy city.
- He wanted to destroy the enemy city completely.
- A writer should trust their instincts when composing an essay.
- A writer should trust his or her instincts when composing an essay.
- And so, we find that we are tempted to edge closer and closer to absolute certainty in doctrine, belief, and ideology. But is such certainty even possible?
- We find that we are tempted to edge closer and closer to absolute certainty in doctrine, belief, and ideology. Is such certainty even possible?
Continue reading “Grammar versus Style”
- Who would be willing to give that up? Not me.
- Who would be willing to give that up? I would not be willing to do so.