Econ 479

The Art of Writing, the Science of Economics

The That/Which Distinction

Careful writers take pains to use the relative pronouns “that” and “which” properly. Note that these statements have different meanings:

  • The book that is on the table contains useful information on the business cycle.
  • The book, which is on the table, contains useful information on the business cycle.

The difference in meaning lies in the “restrictive” versus “nonrestrictive” nature of the pronoun. Think of it this way: “which” introduces an essentially parenthetical expression; “that” is a pointer to a particular item of information, one that is essential if your statement is to be understood as you intended.

This set of guidelines offers elaboration.

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Written by gregorymcnamee

March 24, 2008 at 8:59 pm

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