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Grammar tip: Who vs. that

Posted by Maria Murnane | March 23, 2015

No matter who publishes our books, we authors typically write our own bios, especially those that go on our websites, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook pages, and so on. I read a lot of them that begin something like this:

  • Jane Doe is a nurse that always wanted to write a book, so one day she decided to go for it…
  • John Smith was having trouble getting his manuscript noticed by traditional publishers, but he isn’t a person that backs away from a challenge, so he chose the indie route and has had great success…
  • Jane Doe is a licensed therapist that works with people of all ages to help them manage post-traumatic stress disorder…

These are all compelling statements, but unfortunately they also contain a common grammatical mistake: They use THAT when they should be using WHO. The error immediately jumps out at me, and unfortunately it makes me wonder if their book is also filled with grammatical errors.

To clarify the difference, WHO refers to people. THAT refers to things.

Here’s how each of the above should read:

  • Jane Doe is a nurse who always wanted to write a book, so one day she decided to for it…
  • John Smith was having trouble getting his manuscript noticed by traditional publishers, but he isn’t a person who backs away from a challenge, so he chose the indie route and has had great success…
  • Jane Doe is a licensed therapist who works with people of all ages to help them manage post-traumatic stress disorder…

As I’ve said many times in this blog, if your marketing materials have grammatical errors in them, it creates a negative impression of your writing, no matter how great your writing may actually be. Do you make the who/that mistake in your bio or other marketing materials? If so, a simple fix can make a big difference!

-Maria

 

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2015 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

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