Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Rules Which...I Mean That Make Sense
Unfortunately, the less editing a manuscript requires, the better the chances that it will make it out of the slush pile and into the long journey from editor to editorial board to publications board to publisher to a contract to publication. So we learn the rules and follow them--most of the time.
One of the problems I have is remembering whether to use "which" or "that." That's why I was so happy to find this particular post (thank you, Google) that puts it into perspective. Sure, we can try to remember the rule that "that" is used in conjunction with a restrictive clause, while "which" goes with a non-restrictive clause. But ten minutes after reading the rule, I ask myself, "Now how did that go again?" But the Grammar Girl gave me something to help me remember: You can throw out the "witches" and do no harm. That is, if the clause can be removed without changing the sense of the sentence, use "which."
Those little tips, clues, and helpful mnemonics, have assisted me through life. I learned the names of the twelve cranial nerves by memorizing "On old Olympus' towering tops, a Finn and German viewed some hops." In golf, I remember that an uphill lie encourages a hook, a downhill lie a slice, by reciting under my breath, "Hook up, slice down."
So there you have it. Three helpful "rules" for writers, medical students, and golfers. Are there rules you follow in your life, and do you use tools to aid your memory? I'd like to hear.