English in 2017 is filled with little errors that people seem to make endlessly, from when someone “could care less” to the strange double negative of “irregardless.” Perhaps the most pervasive of all today is the use of “who” and “whom,” which trips up everyone but the most avid of grammar geeks. There is a clear difference between the two, in that “who” takes the subject position and “whom” the object, but that hasn’t stopped the lines from being blurred. The Wall Street Journal explored the matter in “The Bell Tolls for ‘Whom.'”
The WSJ article talks to a wide variety of people who have opinions on “whom.” There’s James T. Harding, who runs the Whom Appreciation Society on Facebook that has a meager following. Ben Yagoda, a professor at the University of Delaware, acknowledges the uses of “who” and “whom” but says the latter can sound too formal in many settings. What the article does not talk about is the capacity of language to change, and that the fact “whom” has been used less and less over time just shows that it is an unnecessary distinction to have in English. Still, knowing the difference is a valuable skill. For one, the article mentions that men who use “whom” correctly seem to have a higher chance of finding women on dating sites (though that’s up for debate).
Though “whom” may be able to help you find love, the most important reason to understand the tricky lexical item is in the field of copyediting, where the nitty-gritty grammar details still matter. If that part entices you, it is worth checking out A Career in Copyediting: Freelancing is the New Black, a course being offered by CALA this summer. Also you can check out our Advanced Diploma in Copyediting, Proofreading, and Fact-checking, which will be available this fall.