November 2013  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.”

—John Updike

Word Pair of the Month: who, whom

How many times have you wondered whether to use the pronoun “who” or “whom”? If your answer is plenty of times, you’re not alone. Who and whom are often confused. Remember that the pronoun who (or whoever) is used as a subject, while whom (or whomever) is used as an object.


Who will represent us at the convention? (Subject of the question)

We need to find whoever was responsible for ordering those supplies. (Subject of the clause whoever was responsible . . . ; see the note below.)

Ann is the director who will chair the meeting. (Subject of the clause who will chair . . .)


To whom should I make out the check? (Object of the preposition to)

We will choose whomever we like best. (Object of the verb like in the clause whomever we like best; see the note below.)

Carl Glassen is the architect with whom we really want to work. (Object of the preposition with)

Note: When the pronoun is part of a subordinate clause, it must be used correctly (either as a subject or an object) within that clause, regardless of the other words in the sentence.

We will choose whoever designs the most exciting logo. (Subject of the clause whoever designs the most exciting logo, not the object of will choose)

Although deciding between “who” or “whom” can be troublesome, it is important to use these words correctly, especially in formal documents. When in doubt, try rewording the sentence. Here is one way to recast the second “subject” example above:

We need to find the person responsible for ordering those supplies.

Finally, we recommend Grammar Gal’s “A Quick and Dirty Tip” on this topic, for a shortcut to checking which is which with “who” and “whom.”

November Writers’ Forum Question

How do you hire workers? Share with us your favorite tips for interviewing and choosing potential employees.

We had a lot of interest in this question. Many responses were similar, but we’ve shared a few that contain different suggestions.

Maria De la Cruz, an HR Manager in Miami, looks beyond the present:

Of course, our first goal is to find someone who perfectly fits the job description. However, we also try to be aware of future possibilities. A potential employee may not have much practical experience in the specific position but demonstrates a pattern of quickly learning and excelling in past jobs. I’d rather have an intelligent worker who can pick up the job than an experienced person who won’t be able to grow or adapt.

Looking ahead was also a priority for Gunnar Nilsson of Stockholm:

It depends on the job. If it’s a senior position, we need someone whose résumé shows us the proper experience and background. For a starting position, though, we look more for someone who can grow in the position and the business, and eventually become that senior person.

Norm Graham, an administrator in Minneapolis, says you have to use common sense:

We try to find someone who can match the needs of the job. For example, a static position dealing with numbers might not be a good match for someone whose background is based in the arts, and vice versa.

We heard from frequent contributor Doris Chin of Sacramento, who offered this view:

So many young people today present résumés filled with numbers: college GPA’s, class rankings, test scores. Frankly, I don’t even look at them. For young, less-experienced applicants, I am more concerned with what they have done with their time outside of classes. Did they volunteer in a homeless shelter? Were they president of their school’s business club or did they manage a sports team? Did they head a campus organization or hold a part-time job in a relevant business area? These activities show me more about the candidate’s abilities, drive, and interests and suggest whether he or she is a match for us.

Suzanne Berg of Passaic, New Jersey, wrote along a similar vein, though her comments are focused on more-experienced candidates:

My biggest concern, and my biggest interviewing question, is “What have you done so far?” I want to know if they developed new methods for faster, better, stronger. I want to know if they started at the bottom and worked to the top, if they entered a company or division that was wasting time and/or losing money and made it efficient and/or profitable, if they demonstrated a skill for making things better. Knowing this shows me a person who has both the brains to do great things and the drive to get them done. That’s the hire I want.

Bradley Johnson, a small-business owner in Atlanta, wrote this:

I want communicators. I want people who can not only do things but also explain what they are doing; people who can clearly present ideas or instructions and who provide a well-written résumé showing a logical career path. If a person can explain to me how that career path led right to my doorstep, that person already has a foot in the door.

And finally, Christina Gannon, a sales manager from Chicago, looks beyond the résumé:

I am impressed by someone who obviously wants the job, someone who enters with confidence and asks intelligent questions, who obviously did some homework about the job and the company. That person will be on time, will present a perfected résumé, and will show me positive body language: sitting up, making eye contact, smiling, shaking my hand, and showing he or she is happy to be considered and eager to begin. Anyone who takes a call or texts someone during the interview is obviously not interested in the job and will not get it.

A Final Thought

How’s your office attitude? Do your employees enjoy working together, or do they hunker down in their cubicles, surfacing only to get coffee or leave for the day? Research has suggested that offices that maintain an open, congenial environment are not only more pleasant but also healthier and more productive, attracting stronger new hires and keeping experienced workers longer.

A better work atmosphere can be achieved with as little as a more attractive break area or regular group lunches, but there are also a variety of office games that can be used to draw workers together. Consider establishing a weekly get-together event, and be sure to include all office tiers in whatever you do.

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