by Lesley-Anne Longo
Published at 2014-10-08
Grammar quiz: When is it appropriate to use “whom”?
Answer: You would use "whom" when you refer to the object of a sentence. Use "who" when you are referring to the subject of a sentence. For example, it is "Whom do I love?" because you are asking about the object of the sentence—the target of your love!
So when is it OK to use "who"? If you were asking about the subject of the sentence, then you would use "who." For example, "Who loves you?" If you want something easy to help you remember, use “whom” when the answer to the question would be “him” or “her.” So, you might say “We all know whom she was really talking about in that interview,” because “she” was talking about HIM in the interview. So: whom = him.
As Lemony Snicket has said in The Wide Window, “Grammar is the greatest joy in life, don't you find?”
To help you find that joy, check out these 5 great grammar blogs when you next stumble upon a grammar problem. And, if you're looking for more help, download our free Grammar & Usage Guide that offers all the editorial tips published in our monthly eNewsletter. Get a head start! To download your copy, go here and click on “Learn More.”
Grammarphobia is run by Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman, two writers and editors with more than 50 combined years of experience working with words. They also have a combined total of 5 books under their belts, so you know they have experience on the editorial side of writing and that they can relate to issues an author might face. The blog is a question-and-answer format, where readers can write in with frustrations or questions they may have about proper usage of the English language. The answers themselves are very in-depth, suitable for authors who are well versed on the ins and outs of English. For more general queries, the “Q & A” section has a wonderful selection of articles answering questions on different topics, from “Why don’t ‘daughter’ and ‘laughter’ rhyme?” to the perennially confusing questions of when to use that or which, or when to use who or whom. If you’re stuck on a question of usage when writing, picking the brains of these two editors might give you the help you need.
This is my personal go-to resource if I come across something I want to double check while editing. Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl) is a friendly guide you’ll want to turn to when you have questions. She offers short, concise tips to help you improve your writing, complete with examples. No one argues that grammar isn’t complex, but Mignon often has memory tricks to simplify tough grammar issues and to help you remember the correct usage. Example topics: “How to Make Names That End in ‘s’ Plural,” “Commas: Oxford, Appositive, Nonrestrictive,” and “Affect Versus Effect.”
After Deadline doesn’t offer a lot of tips, but it might alert you to some issues with your own writing. This blog is adapted from Philip B. Corbett’s weekly newsroom critique in The New York Times. Corbett is also the associate managing editor for standards, and in charge of the Times’s style manual. Basically, the blog is a critical look at grammar usage and style within the Times itself, with issues being pointed out by the paper’s readers. A regularly occurring feature that lets you practise your editing skills is the After Deadline Quiz, a short test featuring sentences pulled from the Times that have some small errors in them. Readers have to try to guess what the error is, and the answer (along with a short, helpful explanation of the error) follows at the end of the quiz.
This blog is written by Tom Freeman, an editor for a charity in London, UK. He focuses on in-depth grammar-use issues for the most part, often delving into history to seek out the origins of a particular usage, but will also on occasion tackle issues within the grammar field (arguments that crop up over usage, outdated grammar “rules,” etc.). Writers will find assistance in articles such as “Write for a Single Reader.” In his blogs, Freeman often circles back to common issues that many writers find difficult to understand, such as how “to better communicate: a history of the split infinitive” and “what’s wrong with the passive voice?” (Hint: nothing, if used correctly). He is humorous and often sarcastic. A trait that many readers might find livens up grammar discussions!
And last, but certainly not least … check out the TEC blogs. While we like to post about all sorts of things, our editors have written an impressive number of archived entries on various sticking points of proper usage. For example you can find entries such as “2 Simple, Everyday Vocabulary Rules” and “Not All Styles Are the Same.” You can also look up resources for navigating the author–editor relationship, “Self-Published Authors Need Editors Too” and “Building Meaningful Author-Editor Relationships.”
With the explosion of the self-publishing industry, there are a lot of great writers out there who want their book to be the best it can possibly be—using grammar well can go a long way to achieving that goal. These resources will help you become more familiar with grammar rules if you’re just starting out. If you’re already a seasoned grammar pro, you’ll find them useful when you are stuck on something, like whether to use “affect” or “effect.”
Grammar is always changing, and using it well to craft your writing into something wonderful will always be worth the time and effort.