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April 14, 2007


b. collins

honestly, i hope you're going to compile these. i've read dozens of style manuals, but never seen such lovely writing as yours here. funny, warm, clever and--the sine qua non in these things--perfectly circumspect.

it could be the style manual for the next century.

strunk and santow.


santow and strunk

Christel van der Boom


Can you go into the difference between who and that refereng to people? On several occassions I've had discussion with coworkers abour this... it would be helpful if you could lay down the rules.



Personally, I just go with "who" by default (I subscribe closely to the 10 second rule).

Also, I just want to comb Bailey's ears.

Dan Santow

Brian – know any editors? Seriously, others have suggested I somehow collect these posts into a book and I’m all for it (and am trying to figure out how best to go about it).

Christel, as I noted in the “note” in the post itself, people can be either a “who” or a “that.” That said, according to the Washington Post’s Bill Walsh, in his book The Elephant’s of Style, “Does ‘toymakers’ mean toymakers as in Geppetto (who) or toymakers such as Mattel (that)? When in doubt, go with ‘that,’ as in a reference to toymakers or importers that might include one-person operations as well as multinational corporations.”

Nick, any time you’d like to groom my dog – god knows he can get mangy – you’re welcome to him.

Mauro Turcatti

As a non-English mothertongue, I love rule #2!


You had me at grammar bugaboo! But the photo of the dog sealed the deal completely.

And, um, oh yeah, the who/whom stuff was good 411 to have in the backpocket too.


I've been seeing the word "myself" used incorrectly more and more often. Please help...

Dan Santow

Jeremey, here's the 411 on "myself," though I'm reserving the right to do a regular blog entry on this someday soon since it's a common problem for people.

Many of us fall back on referring to ourselves as myself (as in "Bailey, Silas, and myself like deviled eggs") because we don’t know whether it’s "Bailey, Silas, and I" or "Bailey, Silas, and me."

"Myself" shouldn’t take the place of the ordinary pronouns "I" and "me" – it should only be used to refer to the subject ("I consider myself lucky to be alive!" in which "myself" refers to the subject, "I") or for emphasis ("I made the 600 calls myself!").

Chris Marritt

"Who does it to whom"
There's one line I'm going to try to remember forever.
Yet again, brilliantly reducing a complicated rule I've never managed to get my head around into a few lines of understandable prose.
When are you going to put all this in a book?


Dear Dan,
Surely it's not strictly correct to say that people can also be a "that"? When I was taught English in school it was drilled into us that people should always be referred to as a "who". It's a real bugbear of mine that "that" seems so acceptable these days. In fact so many strange varieties of English seem to be becoming the norm (here in Australia anyway!) that we've lost track of what's correct and what's been made up as we go along.
All the best,


Thanks! Gosh, this has been perplexing me for ages. I am in the middle of writing yet another boring paper...I finally had to stop and find out the correct answer to 'who' and 'whom'. Thanks for clearing that up!


what about in this context? i am visiting my family who/whom i have not seen in a while.

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Why "Word Wise"?

  • When I started to e-mail out a weekly writing tip to my Chicago colleagues at Edelman in 2002, little did I know how quickly how many people outside my office would start to request it. But word spread, as word is wont to do, and in 2006 the e-mail evolved into this blog. The tips, which are about grammar, usage and style, have a dual purpose – to remind my colleagues in PR of the power of the written word and, more generally, to support and perpetuate clear, concise, creative, honest, lively, stylish, compelling writing everywhere. In 2009 I started to add commentary about and links to stories and other blog posts related to the media, marketing, writing and, sometimes, just interesting stuff. For some reason, I also started Twittering (at SantowDan).