Who? That?

Who or that? There are rules—well, guidelines—to help us decide when to use “that” in a sentence and when to use “who.”

First, some examples to set the scene.

Mary is a person who really likes football.
Mary is a person that really likes football.
The New Orleans Saints is an organization that has a crazy fanbase.
New Orleans Saints fans who attend games love to make WHO DAT signs.

In good news, none of these are wrong. In better news, you can make your writing stronger by following this rule of grammar:

Who refers to people. That may refer to people, animals, groups, or things, but who is preferred when referring to people.

Using “that” isn’t wrong—but we use “that” a lot, don’t we? When you remember to use “who” for people, you’ve cut down on use of a common conjunction, pronoun, and determiner, and made your writing just a little less like that.

You can read more about it here. And just so we aren’t accused of abusing the very useful work “that,” read more about that here.

Many thanks to the New Orleans Saints for a great tagline.

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