1. Where do you stand on animals? I know technically they are “it” not “he/she,” but if I have a character that thinks of them as a person, I use the “he/she.”

  2. Count me in as one of those who is always arguing with copyeditors over the “animal” gray area mentioned above, LOL! I always go with the who/he/she in those instances, and I usually win.

  3. Rachel

    I mention that near the end. If a person considers a pet to be like a person (and many people do!), I am comfortable with using “who” for the pet. (And you have “a character WHO thinks…” 😉 )

  4. Bob L

    You’re incorrect about this. “That” is a perfectly good pronoun to use with persons, and especially in two specific cases: for groups of people, and for cases where the identity of the person is not known. This song uses the latter sense.

    It’s been used in this way for centuries–in fact, “that” as a relative pronoun predates “who”; it’s our oldest relative pronoun. I suggest you check any dictionary (for instance, American Heritage, which I have handy, says: “It is entirely acceptable to write either the man that wanted to talk to you, or the man who wanted to talk to you.”), or any good usage guide (for instance, Fowler or Garner).

    It’s possible that people who come up with this rule are confusing “which” with “that”. While “which” was used historically in regard to persons, that usage died out by the end of the 17th century, and it’s now considered a definite grammatical mistake to use “which” in these cases. But “that”, in reference to persons, has centuries of educated and literary use behind it.

  5. Rachel

    Yes, Bob, the dictionary does allow its use. You are correct. However, if you go to pretty much any grammar site or source, you’ll see that “who” is preferred when referring to humans. It’s a nicety – it sets off people from everything else, making them a little special, which I think is quite nice. And I also suspect that people who use “that” instead of “who” aren’t usually doing it because they know that the American Heritage Dictionary has their back; I think they’re doing it because they don’t know that using “who” is preferred.
    As for that vs. which, I’ve done a column on that issue as well.
    Thanks for the comment! It’s always great to see other people who are passionate about grammar!

  6. Lyrics

    Dear Howtowriteshop,
    This question may be a little off-topic, If you don’t leave your house in the black of night to go fishing this summer, you probably won’t be catching any monsters this season. Night fishing is the final frontier in most fisherman’s lives; once you start night fishing you keep night fishing for the rest of your life-the addiction is too great to beat. Many waters are becoming completely over saturated with pleasure boaters and jet skiers, and their pleasure is not fishing, it is creating as much noise as possible. Most fisherman just shake their heads in disgust and walk home dreaming of another lake to fish.

  7. Melody

    I hate, hate, hate it when lyrics refuse to use the subjunctive: “If I WAS you…” Ow, ow, OW!!! If I WERE you, PLEASE! A lyric is poetry. Unless you’re trying to pass yourself off as a hick, that is!

  8. Valerie

    More rule breaking who/that lyrics:

    Olivia Newton John (from “Grease”): “You’re the one that I want … ooo, ooo, oooo”
    Katy Perry: “The One That Got Away”

    Here’s an easy way to remember when to use the subjective: Use it to mean something that is contrary to fact. Fiddler on the Roof: “If I were a rich man …” (but I’m not)

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