I’m guilty of this way too often. I’ll be eager to post a blog or finish a chapter, and I’ll make a mistake in my writing. Do you ever do that? Case in point; I wrote the following on my Nodody’s Normal blog:
Taken from “House Rules, by Jodi Picoult. Theo is speaking, a teenager with a brother that has Asperger’s.
It felt cumbersome when I wrote it, and worse when I read it, but I was on a self-imposed, totally irrelevant deadline and posted it. Then, I received the following, sincerely appreciated comment.
Wow. Poor kid. Poor mom. (Not referring to me and my mom. Get your mind out of the gutter.)
English writer’s note. Try “whose brother has”.
A brother is a person. So, like God, should have “who” in descriptive phrase, not that.
A brother who has Asperger’s syndrome. A God who loves us. A human parent who is not perfect….
From a friend who loves reading your posts…..
She was, and is, spot on. I couldn’t articulate the “why,” but I knew something was wrong. Without boasting, had I taken a minute to think I would have made the correction. I must remember to TAKE THE TIME. Now the passage reads like this:
Taken from “House Rules, by Jodi Picoult. Theo is speaking, a teenager whose brother has Asperger’s.
I think that’s much better.
The Grammar Girl said basically the same thing as my friend (I’ve never actually seen them in the same room, hmmmm….)
The quick and dirty answer is that you use who when you are talking about a person and that when you are talking about an object. Stick with that rule and you’ll be safe.
Grammar Girl did find some interesting facts about the “Who vs. That” debate. did you know Chaucer used that when talking about people?