TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: That and Which--is it worth it? From:Vicki Rosenzweig <murphy!acmcr!vr -at- UUNET -dot- UU -dot- NET> Date:Fri, 16 Dec 1994 10:54:43 EST
I wouldn't worry that the audience doesn't know the rules--many
people will cheerfully accept either a "to" or an en dash and
not even notice, and that's all right. The more serious question
is what to do when the rules as we understand them don't match
what a lot of people think is appropriate.
Barb, your mention of the evolution of the language is as good
a hook as any to hang my fairly strong suspicion that Fowler was
not summing up a grammatical rule that already existed, but trying--with
a fair degree of success--to introduce one, in his distinction
between "that" and "which." The passage from _Modern English Usage_
says that "if careful writers follow this" (I may not have it
exactly right, but that's the sense of it), the language will be
improved--it does not say that either English idiom or careful
writers have made this distinction in the past. I'm inclined to
think that, after decades of trying, we should admit that this one
isn't going to catch on and stop worrying about it. (I make it
myself, but that doesn't mean other people are wrong for not
vr%acmcr -dot- uucp -at- murphy -dot- com
New York, NY