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Thread: 'Which' vs 'that'

  1. #11
    Yair . . .

    I was interested to see JustRob's comments about using the 'voice' of the protagonist in narration.

    I believe such a ploy works well and (to my ear) maintains a certain authenticity to the writing.

    As far as the present obscure dilemma . . . .

    I have often wondered about the rule myself however , since which, that, was and were are all on my seek and destroy list I seldom have an issue, I write my way around them.

    She was confronting mysteries of science (which/that) would have perplexed the finest minds the Earth had ever produced.

    I find rather clunky and it could be rewritten as . . . .

    She was confronting mysteries of science capable of perplexing the finest minds the Earth had ever produced.

    (In my opinion) the second sentence is a tighter use of words regardless.

    Cheers.

  2. #12
    Creative Area Specialist (Fiction) Blade's Avatar
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    I would have to go with 'that' in this situation on technical grounds though I doubt a reader would notice the alternative choice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
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  3. #13
    I would use "that" in your instance, but I also wouldn't sweat it.
    Wisdom is seldom boisterous.

    -- a guy I know --

    If you're into hillbilly themed pornography (and, really, who ISN'T these days?), check out Hidden Content and Hidden Content . There's no pornography, but everything IS written by a hillbilly.

  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by scrub puller View Post
    Yair . . .

    I was interested to see JustRob's comments about using the 'voice' of the protagonist in narration.

    I believe such a ploy works well and (to my ear) maintains a certain authenticity to the writing.
    I was contemplating starting a specific thread about this but I'm just so apathetic (Okay, only half the time). Should I bother? Anyway, it's not strictly speaking a SPAG issue but one of style, although some might even disagree about that. Any suggestion which forum I should post it in?
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  5. #15
    Yair . . .

    JustRob

    Go for it mate, it will come up in new posts and I would be interested in your views . . . I am going through this with inner thoughts in my current WIP.

    Cheers.

  6. #16
    Wɾʇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarperCole View Post
    I have a lot of trouble with these two.

    This is the sentence in question ...

    She was confronting mysteries of science (which/that) would have perplexed the finest minds the Earth had ever produced.

    My first instinct is to use 'which', but having read through Grammar Girl's article on the subject, I think maybe I need the restrictive clause 'that'. I'm unsure ...

    Any clarification would be appreciated.

    HC
    I try and mix'n'match and switch clauses about to eliminate those whichy words. If I can't, I read it aloud and see what scans according what type of voice you are going for:

    She was confronting mysteries of science which would have perplexed the finest minds the Earth had ever produced.
    - tbh I find this a bit clunky. I think it's the sudden "ch". But also, "which" sort of brings it too close, and makes it almost pedestrian.

    She was confronting mysteries of science that would have perplexed the finest minds the Earth had ever produced.
    - imo just the inclusion of that makes it seem grander and more epic.

  7. #17
    Actually I have trouble with the quoted sentence altogether. Maybe by being pedantic and addressing my other issues I can avoid the original problem. That's my style in general; if you can't solve a problem escalate it into a bigger one that you can.

    To my mind she doesn't confront the mysteries but they confront her, so turn that part around and see what happens.

    "The mysteries of science confronting her would have ... " Problem eliminated. I have always maintained that solutions make themselves evident when one fully understands the problem, so one should keep trying to find and understand the problems and let the solutions find themselves. It's frequently worked for me in life. Sorry about the vague adverb there. Make it 8.5 times out of 10 at a guess then; nine seems a bit optimistic.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  8. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    The word you want is 'that'.

    Unfortunately, they're not interchangeable. The reason why is complicated, but I explain it here: http://www.writingforums.com/threads...60#post1847260
    Well, no...I don't think you understand the difference myself. Though "which" does always require a comma. You got that right.

    Whether you use "that" or "which" depends entirely on the meaning the author wants to convey. In other words, it's impossible for a reader to look at a single sentence and say, "Ooops, he should've used 'that' in that sentence." or "She made a mistake; that sentence calls for 'which'". Look at these two sentences:

    I chose the dress that I wore to my brother's wedding.
    I chose the dress, which I wore to my brother's wedding.

    You all have read the term "restrictive clause" thrown around in this discussion as if it were as understandable as a baseball, but I'm sure some are clueless. A restrictive clause sets one thing apart from other like things; it specifies. That is the situation where you want to use "that". In the first sentence, the restrictive clause is "that I wore to my brother's wedding". So, to re-word for clarity, the first sentence means this:

    You know the dress I wore to my brother's wedding? That's the dress I chose. I found it hanging in the back of my closet behind my work dresses.

    The sentence emphasizes the specific dress worn. The brother's wedding has already taken place, and the speaker is letting the listener know which dress out of all her dresses she chose.

    In the second sentence, "which" couples with a non-restrictive clause. There is no need for a restrictive clause because the thing discussed is either unique or plainly understood. To re-word for clarity, that sentence means this:

    You know the dress I wore to my brother's wedding? I chose it. My brother's wife didn't choose it. I did.

    The sentence emphasizes the choice, not the dress.

    So to decide which word to use, just decide which meaning you need to convey. For the OP use:

    She was confronting mysteries of science that would have perplexed the finest minds the Earth had ever produced.

    if you want to emphasize these specific mysteries that would have perplexed the finest minds, as opposed to other mysteries.

    Or use:

    She was confronting mysteries of science, which would have perplexed the finest minds the Earth had ever produced.

    if you want to emphasize the confrontation and mean that the finest minds would be perplexed that she's confronting the mysteries.

    That's my two cents.
    John Oberon
    Hidden Content

  9. #19
    Thanks, that's a clear explanation of the restrictive/non-restrictive clause concept, which I was struggling with.

    I'll need to practice before it becomes second nature, but I think I get the idea now.

  10. #20
    And by the way, that sentence is pretty cumbersome. See "About Hammer & Tongs" on the Hammer & Tongs page of my website for other suggestions to make your writing more lean and mean.
    John Oberon
    Hidden Content

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