Friday, May 22, 2009

PUGS Pointers #25: Who or Whom?

PUGS* Pointers
(*Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling)
by Kathy Ide

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling (“PUGS”).


Foreign Words
Isolated words and phrases in a foreign language should be set in italics if they are likely to be unfamiliar to readers. If it’s a fairly common word, check Webster’s Collegiate to see if the word has been adopted into English. If so, don’t italicize.

See The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) #7.51 and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style pages 242–243.

For articles, The Associated Press Stylebook (p. 99) says that foreign words that are not universally understood should be placed in quotation marks (with an explanation of its meaning).


clench (verb) means “to set or close tightly.”
(Clench is a “transitive verb,” which means it requires an object, such as hands, fingers, jaws, or teeth.)
“Melissa clenched her teeth when Myra clenched her fist.”

clinch (verb) means to “settle,” “make final or irrefutable,” or “secure conclusively.”
(Clinch is most often used for the securing of an agreement, argument, or verdict.)
“Jeanette’s evidence clinched the argument.”
clinch (verb) can also mean “to hold an opponent in close quarters” in boxing.
clinch (noun) means “an act or instance of clinching in boxing” or “an embrace.”


The pronouns who and whom can be confusing. But there are some tricks you can use to determine which one to use.

1. Try substituting a he/she or him/her pronoun. If he/she fits, use who. If him/her fits, use whom.
Diana, who rented the room, left the window open. (She rented the room.)
Diana, to whom the room was rented, left the window open. (It was rented to her.)

2. whom is always preceded by a preposition because the action has to happen to, with, or for the person being referred to.
The man to whom you wrote the check no longer works at this company.
The bowlers with whom I play won every tournament last season.
The audience for whom the book was written is teenage girls.


espresso (not expresso)


PUGS Pointers are based on the current industry-standard references in the United States.

For books:
The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition, © 2003)
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, © 2003)

For articles:
The Associated Press Stylebook (© 2004)
Webster’s New World College Dictionary (© 2002)

Many publishing houses have their own in-house style guides that may differ in some aspects from the standard references. However, unless you’re writing exclusively for one particular publisher, it’s best to follow the standard references and let the in-house proofreaders adjust to house style.

For more PUGS Pointers, see Kathy Ide’s Web site. Or get her book Polishing the PUGS, available here.


Kathy Ide has been writing for publication since 1988. She has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for aspiring writers, established authors, commercial book publishers, subsidy publishers, and magazines. Her services include proofreading, copyediting, substantive/content editing, coauthoring, ghostwriting, and mentoring/coaching. She also speaks at writers conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network and the Christian Editor Network. To find out more, please visit Kathy's Web site.

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Yvonne said...

Your blog is so refreshing! Our society is becoming very grammar illiterate. Thanks for doing your part to help.


Tracy Ruckman said...

Thanks, Yvonne. I love the community we've built, and continue to build, here at Pix-N-Pens.

I'm glad you're part of it.