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    Wednesday, February 25, 2004

    Who thought whom with the what now?

    I'm reading Strunk & White's The Elements of Style because lately I've been writing more frequently -- cover letters, freelance proposals, business e-mails, entries on this site -- and my writing style could use some polishing. I highly recommend this little book. Now in its fourth edition, it was originally written in 1919 by a Cornell professor.

    It quickly gets to the bottom of grammatical subtleties that have often stood in the center of heated debates. Fists have flown over the use of the semi-colon vs. comma. Well, no, not really. But you could do worse than pick up a copy of this little guide. It's a quick read, and you learn quite a bit. For instance, I'm never going to write a sentence that needs the words 'who' or 'whom' again. It's just too confusing. I thought you simply use 'whom' in cases like this:

    Ross Perot is the candidate whom we hope to elect.

    Ross Perot is the candidate whom we think will win.

    I would think both of these are grammatically correct, but the second statement is flawed. It should read "who we think will win" because Perot, in that example, is the subject of the subordinate clause. In other words, it could also read "We think he will win." Therefore the proper way is this:

    Ross Perot is the candidate who we think will win.

    See? I told you I'd never use who/whom again. It's confusing. It makes my head hurt. And I have to prepare for a job fair now.