That vs. Who vs. What

October 19, 2016

 

As someone who grew up enjoying reading, with a tenured marketing professor and an editor as parents, I found the smallest typos in books annoying. Why/how could an editor miss some of the things I have found? The most annoying of these is that vs. who. When people write or say “that” instead of “who” when referring to a person and not a thing, it drives me up the wall.

 

For example: “The man around the corner is the one that sold me the pizza.” If it was not the man, but a robot instead, the that would be correct. The sentence should read, “The man around the corner is the one who sold me the pizza.” Another example: in the TV show Orange is the New Black, the main character is speaking with her lawyer and she says, “Coffee is a close second to what I miss the most. Larry is what I miss the most.” Her lawyer says, “Larry is a who not a what.”

 

If you think about it as you are reading, then you will see how often that turns up. I would advise against it, though, if incorrect language use really irks you. As a writer, I understand how sometimes words end up in the wrong places, but writers should not be put them there intentionally. I could go on about examples of this kind of instance for some time, but that would accomplish nothing. Words should not be wasted.

 

 

 

picture credit: shit academics say

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