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.
From:Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET> Date:Fri, 2 Feb 1996 14:06:00 EST
>Rivas, Merrie wrote:
>> Which of the following sentences is grammatically correct and why/why
>> 1. The record description is a text entry which has no conditional
>> 2. The record description is a text entry which does not have
>> conditional logic.
>> merrie -at- stateoftheart -dot- com
>Neither is correct. In each sentence, "which" should be "that." "That"
>is used for restrictive clauses, which distinguish a particular item
>from a group of similar items. "Which" is the nonrestrictive pronoun and
>is used to add parenthetical information about a single item. By using
>"that" you are saying, in effect, "The record description is a text
>entry [a type of text entry distinguished from many different types of
>text entries] that does not have conditional logic." Using "which" ("The
>record description is a text entry, which does not have...) implies that
>all text entries (that is, all the possible types of text entries) do
>not have conditional logic, which is not the case. Have I explained this
>clearly? Something tells me I haven't; maybe more coffee is in order. :)
>It seems that the reason for your question was to determine whether "has
>no" or "does not have" is correct. While each form is grammatically
>correct, the first is less wordy and so might be more desirable in a
I'm of the opinion that neither sentence should be allowed to stand. Not
because they're ungrammatical (although they are...Steve is correct that
both need to be considered restrictive) but because they're precious and
hard to decompose at reading speeds. The use of "which" is a false elegance,
used by many writers who want to sound British. Although the original intent
was to separate them by their uses of the negative, the sentences betray a
much deeper-seated problem: They don't scan. If I were editing them, I'd say
they need to be recast, and perhaps a different approach adopted altogether.
I'm all for tabular forms for this sort of data, which would eliminate all
"speed bump" problems with the text. It's more precise and easier to review,
Don't feel bad about the explanation, Steve. I know English teachers who
take days hammering this concept home.