Who wins in ‘who’ vs. ‘whom’?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post on ‘who’ vs. ‘whom’…

Many friends, colleagues, readers and even family, mistakenly see me as some sort of grammar guru. I think they make this assumption because I’ve been a professional writer for 40 years. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Neither a Grammar Nancy nor a Grammar Nazi, I’m just lucky enough to have a reasonably good ear. But if I’m ever faced with a sticky question — especially one requiring a label like “that’s a dangling modifier” — I need to call my excellent copy editor (who does not edit this column, by the way).

That said, I am usually interested in grammatical issues and I thank my friend Greg for forwarding an excellent New Yorker column by Mary Norris on the subject of who vs. whom.

If this question has ever befuddled you, I suggest you follow Norris’s advice:

My test for the correct use of “who” or “whom”…is to recast the clause as a complete sentence, assigning a temporary personal pronoun… [for example], “I know she will use it”? Or “I know her will use it”? No native speaker of English who has outgrown baby talk would say “her will use it.” The correct choice is clearly “she.” [meaning the relative pronoun should be who not whom.]

Even if you have only a passing interest in grammar, read all of Norris’s post. It’s both amusing and educational.