Category Archives: 4. Classroom Exercises

Learning to Distinguish Between Who, That, or Which

Instructors: Answer key is downloadable at the end of this post.

Careful writers and speakers distinguish among the relative pronouns who, that, and which.

WHO is used to refer to persons. It may introduce essential or nonessential clauses.

ExampleAnyone who can build social media followers is in demand. (The relative clause who can build social media followers is essential. Without this clause, the sentence says that anyone is in demand. However, only one who can build social media followers is in demand.)                         

ExampleKevin Lee, who is excellent at building social media followers, made our brand grow 25 percent over six months. (The relative clause who is excellent at building social media followers is nonessential. It describes but does not limit the main clause. The main clause can stand alone without the added information. Hint: When individuals are named, information added in whoclauses is almost always nonessential. Notice that commas set off nonessential clauses.)

THAT refers to animals or things and should be used to introduce essential clauses.

ExampleThe Instagram account that Kevin created attracted many followers. (The relative clause that Kevin created is essential. What web site attracted many visitors? Only the Instagram account that Kevin created attracted the visitors. Don’t use the relative pronoun whichto introduce essential clauses.)

WHICH refers to animals or things and introduces a nonessential clause.

Example The Instagram account, which was totally redesigned by Kevin Lee, has helped our brand grow. (The relative pronoun clause is intended to be nonessential. Because it merely adds extra information, it is set off by commas.

The tricky part is deciding whether a clause is nonessential. Nonessential clauses contain information that the reader does not need to know; the main clause is understandable without this extra information. In some cases, only the writer knows whether the clause is intended to be essential or nonessential. If a clause is intended to be nonessential, it should be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.

In the following sentences, revise any incorrect relative pronouns and punctuation. Mark Cif the sentence is correct.                                                                                   

  1. On Instagram it’s more important to have 1,000 followers that actively participate than 10,000 fans that were purchased.
  2. Our customer account teams, that were recently developed to meet our changing business needs, will analyze your business operations from every angle.
  3. Any site who has free delivery will appeal to potential customers.
  4. Anyone that has recently purchased a smartphone knows how quickly they become obsolete.
  5. Managers are looking for people that have good vocabularies, grammar, and manners.
  6. The new rules which will become effective July 1 are intended to increase worker safety.
  7. Jeffrey has a dog who likes to eat cold pizza.
  8. Many assembly work areas provide a special handle which can be pulled to stop the line if an imminent danger arises.
  9. Some of the parts which were moving down the assembly line required special robots to lift them onto the cars being assembled.
  10. Our team which has the authority to set up its own work schedules tries to rotate the hardest jobs.
  11. We appointed a safety committee which provides guidelines to individual work units.
  12. Hawaiian Vintage chocolate which is grown in the fertile regions of Kona and Keaau is the only chocolate produced from American-grown cocoa beans.
  13. Those chocolate lovers who are willing to pay the high price of $56 a pound appreciate the fruity aroma and intense taste of Hawaiian chocolate.
  14. Any car which is traveling over the speed limit will be ticketed.
  15. Western rattlesnakes who are the most common rattlers in the West hibernate together in large numbers during the winter months.

Distinguishing Who, That, Which Exercise


Revising for Conciseness

[Instructors: Download PDFs of the exercise and proposed solutions at the end of the post.]

Eliminate wordiness in the following sentences. Look for long lead-ins, redundancies, clichés, noun conversions, needless repetition, and other wordy constructions.

  1. This is to inform you that a great percentage of employees are of the opinion that it is preferable to save their money in the event that they may want to retire early.
  2. The vice president solicited the directors for their input regarding the utilization of video conferencing.
  3. In spite of the fact that it’s a longer commute, I made the decision to take them up on the job they offered me.
  4. The boss said she would return in a short time and deal with the problem in production.
  5. The new outlet that will sell sporting goods will be built in close proximity to three major routes of transportation.
  6. It is my intention to make a request for a promotion.
  7. There have been some complaints on the part of customers who made the statements that their orders were sent to wrong addresses.
  8. We have reached the conclusion that because the CEO failed to plan in advance for the price change, the company lost in excess of $3.5 million.
  9. Before making a choice of the proposed location for the new offices, we must make an economic assessment of the advantages of a variety of sites available.
  10. If you are able to complete this project ahead of schedule, please advise me at your earliest convenience.
  11. We do not have the expectation of hiring any new staff members in the foreseeable future.
  12. He said that he had made an application to the board in January for a sufficient amount of funds to make a purchase of three tablets.

Revising for Conciseness Exercise

Revise for Conciseness Solutions


Avoiding Gender Bias in Writing

[Instructors: Use this Classroom Exercise as a quick change-of-page in your classrooms. Used the exercise and key PDFS at the end of the post.]

Let’s take a look at gender bias. Many people are unaware of their biases and mean no harm, but they may call unnecessary attention to gender, invoke gender stereotypes, or use expressions that can be offensive. In the sentences below, change the word that is gender insensitive to one that is gender neutral.

  1. After a long discussion about the merits of the candidates, the board appointed Sofia Merced (as) chairwoman.
  2. The instructor asked a student to show his work to the class.
  3. Manmade chemicals sometimes mimic the composition of substances found in nature.
  4. Our nation’s forefathers experienced great hardships before and during the Revolutionary War.
  5. The tourists asked the policeman on Madison Avenue for directions to the Metropolitan Museum.
  6. The university offers many resources to help freshmen adapt to their new situation.
  7. After the discussion devolved into a free-for-all, it was clear a middleman was needed to help both sides come to a compromise.
  8. Many of the students spoke their mother tongue before they spoke English.
  9. Ask the speaker if he has completed the PowerPoint slides to accompany his talk .
  10. The roommates encountered many problems with their landlord.


Avoiding Gender Bias Key