Posted by: episystechpubs | April 22, 2016

Editor’s Corner: The Return of Who and Whom

Good morning!

Ask an editor about the top 20 questions he or she is asked and I bet you’ll hear, “Why are you so mean with your red pen?” (Answer: I am not mean; I am just feisty.) I bet another item on that list is “When do I use who or whom?” (Answer: Continue reading; all will be revealed.) Today, I’ve gone back to an old favorite,, for the explanation of when to use who or whom.

You can also visit Bob Cratchit’s Editor’s Corner Past for another description. After reading the articles, test your knowledge with a bonus quiz!

Who vs. Whom

Rule. Use this he/him method to decide whether who or whom is correct:

he = who
him = whom

Who/Whom wrote the letter?
He wrote the letter. Therefore, who is correct.

Who/Whom should I vote for?
Should I vote for him? Therefore, whom is correct.

We all know who/whom pulled that prank.
This sentence contains two clauses: we all know and who/whom pulled that prank. We are interested in the second clause because it contains the who/whom. He pulled that prank. Therefore, who is correct.

We wondered who/whom the book was about.
This sentence contains two clauses: we wondered and who/whom the book was about. Again, we are interested in the second clause because it contains the who/whom. The book was about him. Therefore, whom is correct.

Note: This rule is compromised by an odd infatuation people have with whom—and not for good reasons. At its worst, the use of whom becomes a form of one-upmanship some employ to appear sophisticated. The following is an example of the pseudo-sophisticated whom.

Incorrect: a woman whom I think is a genius

In this case whom is not the object of I think. Put I think at the end and the mistake becomes obvious: a woman whom is a genius, I think.

Correct: a woman who I think is a genius

Learn to spot and avoid this too-common pitfall.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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