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Subject:Re: that vs who From:"Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com> To:"techwr-l" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com> Date:Thu, 2 Apr 2009 07:11:24 -0700
This is one of those times when "correct" and "accepted" usages are used
interchangeably. Grade school grammar lessons teach that "who" should be used
when discussing individual people and "that" when discussing groups of people,
non-humans or inanimate objects, but the rule has been commonly disregarded
throughout almost the entire history of the English language. You will find
examples of "that" being used to describe a person in works by Chaucer,
Shakespeare, Dickens, etc. If my audience included a lot of academics I would
be careful about my own usage and that of others, but otherwise I wouldn't get
into a fight over it with anyone.
It's also one of those discussions that should be carefully limited to people in
the profession and not carried out in the presence of outsiders, in order to
avoid adding to the already common general perception that the technical writers
get bogged down in trivialities that nobody else cares about.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Neilson" <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
> "Any user >who< desires good results follows the instructions carefully."
> "Any user >that< desires good results follows the instructions carefully."
> I encounter both of these constructions in everyday use, and have the
> feeling that "who" is the correct usage. What accounts for the use of
> "that" in referring to people? Is there a rule that confirms my
> preference for "who" or one (of which I'm unaware) that prescribes "that"?
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