ClearTips: Edit yourself

Avoid hopscotching between that and which

Many writers think a sentence is made more elegant by a restrictive clause introduced by which. But the usage that Fowler, Follett, Strunk and White, and many other arbiters of usage prefer is to use that for restrictive clauses, which for nonrestrictive. Such usage at least shows that the writer knows the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.

The book which I wrote in 1994 is about French politics.
The book that I wrote in 1994 is about French politics.

The use of that leaves no question about whether the clause is restrictive. And reserving which for nonrestrictive clauses leaves no question about which which clauses are to be punctuated. Note, however, the exception of restrictive clauses that begin with a preposition: the manner in which she does things. Note, too, that the exception can be circumvented by rewriting: the way she does things.

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