Who vs. Whom and Other Writing Bugaboos

Every writer has them: little points of grammar she can never remember. Is it who or whom? When is effect the right word? Is it i.e. or e.g., and what do they stand for anyway? Herewith, a few points to help you produce cleaner copy.

  • Who vs. whom. Who is used in place of a subject noun, whereas whom is used in place of an object noun. Try switching out who/whom for he/him. If you’d use he, you want who; if you’d use him, whom is your answer:

    Who was late for dinner? He was late for dinner.
    I sent an e-mail to whom? I sent an e-mail to him.

  •  I.e. and e.g. I.e. stands for id est in Latin, which translates to that is in English. E.g. stands for exempli gratia in Latin, which is for example in English. If you can remember that i.e. is that is, you’ll be able to make the right choice. (Anyone have a mnemomic device for remembering which is which?)
  • Affect and effect. Affect is generally used as a verb, and effect is generally used as a noun. Here’s a mnemonic device, courtesy of Copyediting: “To Affect is to Act on, but the Effect is the rEsult.”
  •  Farther vs. further. Farther is used for distances, while further is used for time or degree:

    I walked farther today than I did yesterday.
    John wants to discuss the topic further at the meeting.

What bugaboos haunt your writing? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll cover them in a future post.

About Erin Brenner

With a BA and an MA in English, Erin has been an editing professional for 15 years, working on a variety of media, especially online. Her niche is business/marketing and online. In addition, she has experience teaching editing to non-editors and coaching writers. In 2008, Erin was bitten by the social media bug...hard. Follow her on Twitter, @ebrenner, and get a daily vocabulary word, a link to the article of the day, and much more. You can also find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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