I have a confession to make, I’m about to get found out. The painting that is hanging in my dining room, was not, in fact, painted by me. The one which is hanging crookedly in the lounge is the one I painted.
It’s out! I’m owning up to something which I have kept secret all these years.
As a lover of words, a grammar geek, I gleefully attack grammar misuse and other literary errors in a bid to rid my life of the grit on the tracks that derails me when I am reading something – like clumsy grammar that stops me dead and interrupts my reading pleasure.
So why did I take a detour from the subject of paintings to grammar? Because I was ashamed to come out with the truth. I am procrastinating, taking the scenic route.
Today, my true confession is this: I have finally understood the grammatical difference between that and which.
Among all the lessons I enjoyed when I was still at junior school, cracking the punctuation code, the verbs and the nouns, the adverbs and the adjectives, I really don’t remember covering that particular puzzle. So for those who admit a similar gap in their grasp of this fascinating language, I have illustrated how it works in my confession about the paintings.
If the sentence doesn’t need the clause that the word in question is connecting, use which. If it does, and that information is essential, use that.
Clue: I ask myself whether I could insert the phrase “by the way”, and if so, then I know I should use which.
If grammar is sometimes a mystery to you, but you suspect it might be what has been holding you back from applying for jobs or submitting your manuscript to a publisher, I can help to clear up a few of the stickiest and most common puzzles.
A fun and easy Punctuation Quiz is available here.