Totalitarians of Grammar

When I write, I write for readability.  If you have to re-read a sentence of mine, I’ve not done my job.  But there are some out there that want the rules to be followed no matter how unclear the writer’s intent or just plain bad the writing becomes.

A guy in my office said he was recently e-scolded by someone he emailed because he ended a sentence with a preposition.  I offered him the (probably apocryphal) response Winston Churchill offered up, “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

Just last week, an editor chided me for the that v. which argument.  I can never remember which is which and thus don’t care.  However, I read a language column today that offered up a solution.  Can you get any more authoritative that the King James Bible?  I’d say no.  That and the bard are the fountain of modern literature.

Here’s similar passages from three different gospels:

Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. – Matthew 22:21

Then there’s this….

And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to CAESAR the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him. – Mark 12;17

Ok…. How about another one.

And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. – Luke 20:25

The answer to that v. which – it just don’t matter.  I just wish I had this prepped when my editor emailed me.  The lesson from this week’s Gospel:  sometimes “which” sounds better and sometimes “that” sounds better.  All’s good just as long as you understand what the writer (me) is trying to tell you.

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