Grammarly is more than just a grammar checking program. It provides comprehensive explanations of errors and helps writers improve over time.
The distinction between which and that is a common source of confusion. In formal American English, which introduces restrictive clauses that limit the meaning of a noun, while that introduces nonrestrictive clauses.
Which is Restrictive
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Which is used to begin nonrestrictive clauses, which are relative pronouns that add supplementary information. Nonrestrictive clauses can be removed from the sentence without affecting its meaning, and they’re often set off by commas. For example, the phrase “my bike that has a broken seat is in the garage” indicates that the speaker owns more than one bicycle.
Restrictive clauses, on the other hand, can’t be removed from the sentence without changing its meaning. For this reason, AP Style recommends using which only for essential restrictive clauses. Otherwise, use who instead. This mnemonic should help you remember when to use which and when to avoid it. That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, after all. The best part about Grammarly is that it can be used in conjunction with your teacher’s feedback to help you improve your written work.
Which is Nonrestrictive
The distinction between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses isn’t necessarily a hard-and-fast rule. However, it’s helpful for writers to know that a restrictive clause identifies or limits a noun in an essential way, while a nonrestrictive clause adds removable information. The former is more likely to be a that clause, while the latter is more likely to be a which clause.
A nonrestrictive clause usually begins with the relative pronoun who, which, or whose and is set off by commas because it provides supplementary information to the noun it modifies. A few examples include:
Which is Questionable
Aside from the grammatical errors it picks up, Grammarly can also be overzealous and suggest inappropriate word choices. It has the potential to overwhelm students with a lot of feedback that is not helpful, which can crush their confidence in their writing skills and may even discourage them from using English at all.
Moreover, it is unable to catch contextual errors that are essential in the meaning of a sentence. It can miss tone as well, which is a crucial element in effective storytelling.
For these reasons, it is best to use it as a supplement to human editing rather than as a substitute. It can help you improve your writing, but it should never be the sole proofreader for your books. After all, nothing beats a good set of eyes when it comes to editing. For the most thorough editing, you should always hire a professional editor. They can help you make your writing stronger and more compelling for your readers.
Which is Personal
A lot of people have a hard time with the “which vs. that” rule, but it’s a pretty important one to remember. It’s not just a matter of style; it changes the meaning of a sentence.
If a clause is essential, use “that.” If it could be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence, use “which.”
It’s also helpful to think about what kind of things you’re describing. Are you talking about things that are personal to a person (two ns) or something that is about them in some way?
A good rule of thumb is to avoid using personal pronouns with that and which unless they’re used as restrictive clauses. Otherwise, it’s probably best to leave them out. That’s not to say you can’t ever use them; just be careful when you do. Even the greatest writers make mistakes, so don’t be afraid to break this one from time to time. It will help keep your writing clear and your sentences from sounding choppy.