Thursday, April 1, 2010

Who is Whom?

In my last post, Can You Delete That Anne suggested I blog on the use of ‘who’ and ‘whom’. Well, I spent some time researching it and I’ve come to the conclusion others have already explained it much better than I can. So what I’m going to do is present a list of resources for you to check out.

Since I introduced the University of Kansas’ Wonderful World of Editing site in the abovementioned blog post, I’ll refer to it first. I won't repeat their Rules  #1 and #2 since you can read them on their Who and Whom page but Rule #3 is too good to pass up:

Rule #3: Give it a sincere and honest effort to determine if it's “who” or “whom.” If it takes more than a 30 seconds to figure it out, pick the one that sounds best to the ear (read it aloud) and move on. Why? Because even grammarians are likely to squabble over which to use. But always — always — apply rules #1 and #2 before using Rule #3.

The site has a mini-tutorial with clear explanations and examples. Probably because it’s used for students learning English as a second language (ESL).

Prof Paul Brians of Washington State University has written a book called Common Errors in English Usage. On the WSU site, he has a page dedicated to the use of Who/Whom. Here’s an example of his somewhat comedic explanation:

“Whom” has been dying an agonizing death for decades—you’ll notice there are no Whoms in Dr. Seuss’s Whoville. Many people never use the word in speech at all. However, in formal writing, critical readers still expect it to be used when appropriate. The distinction between “who” and “whom” is basically simple: “who” is the subject form of this pronoun and “whom” is the object form. “Who was wearing that awful dress at the Academy Awards banquet?” is correct because “who” is the subject of the sentence. “The MC was so startled by the neckline that he forgot to whom he was supposed to give the Oscar” is correct because “whom” is the object of the preposition “to.” So far so good.

If you want to test yourself, try these:

- Who Who Which That Challenge

- Who Whom Whoever Whomever Quiz     

Most sites said the simplest way to figure out the proper usage of who/whom is to use the he/she test. Here is one of the better explanations from Homework/Study Tips:

Silently replace the word with he or him to see which sounds better. He is the equivalent of who (subjective) and him is the equivalent of whom (objective).

For instance, if you want to decide which is correct in this sentence:

Who/Whom should I consider as a college recommendation?

Re-arrange the sentence in your head so it will make sense using him or he. You'll come up with the following choices:

I should consider him...

I should consider he... Him is clearly better. Therefore, the correct word in the sentence above will be whom.

Hopefully there’s something above to help the confusion of the use of ‘who’ and ‘whom’.

And now for something different...

Back on Feb 18th, I blogged about floundering and devastation when my wonderful critique partners (CP’s) were brutally honest with Emma’s Outlaw, my Genesis entry. I posted my response to their criticisms.

And here’s the update: I spent roughly a month reworking the first 30 pages of Emma’s Outlaw until I was sure I’d covered all the deficiencies the CP’s had brought up. The test came when I sent out the new, improved version for critting.

The result  . . . they like it! Phew.

Two days ago after taking their new crits into consideration, I entered the first 15 pages of Emma’s Outlaw in the America Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis contest. The award will be given out at the annual conference in Sept which will be held in Indianapolis this year.

Since the Touched By Love (TBL) contest has a deadline of April 1st, I decided to enter this one as well. This 30 page contest is put on by the Romance Writers of America’s (RWA) Faith, Hope and Love inspirational chapter. I lost my internet service Tues night (panic) but it was back up and running yesterday (Wed) so my entry went out at that time. This award will be given out at the RWA annual conference in July which is being held in Nashville this year.

At this point, there are only 2 things I’m sure of:

- I have to wait until the middle of May to see if I final in either contest
- regardless of the contest, I will be attending both the RWA and ACFW conferences.


Question of the Day: What are your thoughts on the use of who/whom? Do we still need whom?


Silver James said...

Grammar? Wait!?! We have to know grammar to write? Oh noes. Whatever shall I do? ;)

Great reminders, Anita. Fingers crossed on your contest entries and I hope we bump into each other at RWA! Are you taking part in the RWA-PRO writing challenge? Cyndi D'Alba is giving "prizes" at the PRO Retreat for those taking part and making the goal.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Silver - you'll be in Nashville? Woo hoo! That will be great to finally meet you.

Um - not sure what RWA-PRO is. I've heard of PRO and PAN. But didn't think I qualified for either one. I'll have to do some checking...

Thank you.


Silver James said...

If you've completed a MS, or submitted to an agent or editor, you qualify for PRO. Here's the link:

See you in Nashville! At the very least, drop by the literacy signing and snatch a bookmark and candy. :D

connie said...

Hi Anita
Maybe I was born with a strange affliction, but I know where which, who and whom go. Maybe my English teacher is to blame. (show off! show-off?)

The right one just sounds better: To whom it may concern vs
To Who it may concern
Who put this on the table which is to be kept clear vs
Whom put this on the table that is etc

Clearly, what I have trouble with is which and that. Are they interchangeable?

Again I go with what sounds right to which, who can complain?
The thing is, I don't think anybody else knows, so go with whichever.

Now, how-ever over-head is the question of where-ever can I put hyphens - a problem I have had since high-school?

Sometimes, following the rules every single time can cause problems. I have always loved this one, by Winston Churchill: "We cannot put up with this" which actually should be: This,we cannot up with put.

The one thing a grammar book will not tell me, is the answer to whichever? whatever? question I have.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks Silver, I'll check it out.

Connie - there are those to whom things come naturally and then there are those who have to scramble all the way. When it comes to grammar, I'm in the latter category. And that's probably why I'm not a journalist like you. :)

Last year I tried writing by the rules and I lost my voice. After weighing it all out, I decided to go with what came natural to me and that's what these 2 contest entries show. We'll see how it worked out.

btw everyone - I'm sorry I haven't been commenting on the blog lately but I put the contests as my first priority. Thanks for bearing with me.


Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
In real life, how many times do you find yourself using the word whom? I'm guessing not so much. Like one of your sources said, it's still expected to be used in formal writing, but in speech and in fiction it is rarely used anymore.

Having said that, I believe it's important to use proper grammar in our fiction.

Good luck on the contests. I hope you final. And I'm very jealous about you going to both conferences this year! Unless I win the lottery, I don't think I'll be going anywhere this year.


Janet said...

I was terrible at grammar in school and still struggle with all the rules. I hate, hate, hate those dreaded green lines under my sentences in Word - 'long sentence', 'missing that', 'fragment', the list goes on! So whom, who, which, that, comma, semi-colon are all a blur to me.

Great links to help those of us who/whom need help, that/which is a good thing. Thanks, Anita.

And good luck with the contests. I'm like Jana - I need to win a lottery to get to a conference this year :(

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Jana, the only reason I'm able to go to both is because I have a hubby who believes in me and gave me a good portion of his work bonus to prove it. :)

And yes, I can see the need for proper grammar in fiction. I only bend the rules when it comes to fragmented sentences. Oh, and I like to use ! to express excitement or unbelief and not just because someone's shouting.

Thanks, Jana.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Actually Janet, I'm kinda envious of you. You may not get to a conference this year, but you get to rub shoulders with authors like Donna Alward on a regular basis. Having access to them and their craft knowledge has to be an inspiring experience.

And much as I don't like the green squigglies, they've really helped me change my writing and get me out of the passive mode.


Karyn Good said...

Thanks for the whom and who clarification and the great links. I'm sure all your hard work will pay off but I'll send along good luck wishes on your contest entry anyway, Sweetie!

Hum, I think I need to enter another contest...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks Karyn. It seems like every time I turn around you're all wishing me good luck on my entries. :)

So it's my turn now... Good luck, Karyn. Go for it!


connie said...


re: contests
Congratulations in advance

Let us all know immediately - which is to say two seconds after you find out yourself!


Debra E Marvin said...

Mhwah ha ha ha. It's one of your mean old crit partners checking up on you.

hey, I'm impressed that you went public with this who/whom thingy. Brave woman!
I do use the he/him and it works for me.

I didn't know you were going to RWA, too. That's wonderful.

Thanks for the mini-lesson. I'll see if I can come up with another one for you to do!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Yes, people, the lovely Debra is one of the three critters who completely ripped apart Emma's Outlaw back in Feb. And she's impressed I went public. Ha!

Seriously, every writer needs critters who have the strength of their conviction to do what Deb did because it's in your best interest.

And the amazing thing about this is that Deb has entered the same Genesis category as me! Actually, I think a couple of the other critters who worked on this are, too. Last year these critters were Genesis finalists. I sat with them at the ACFW awards banquet and cheered them on. And now they're helping me. I'm truly blessed.