Friday, December 16, 2011

Common Problems (Part 14 of 50)

Distinguish between this and that. In recent years, writers have tended to use this in relating an account and should instead use that. Use this when you refer to the present or something physically near; use that when you refer to the past or something far away.

Here are examples of the misuse of this.

• Write a brief summary of the ways you could show this person's selfless love. (Unless the person was physically present, use that.)

• Nothing in our conversation prepared me for this question. (The context was past tense, as shown by prepared, so someone asked the question in the past.)

• On this particular day my intuition kept tugging at me to turn the car around. (That is probably better. If the author uses this to make it what we call present continuous tense, the sentence should read: On this particular day my intuition keeps tugging at me. . . Or she could have shifted it to the past tense: On that particular day, my intuition continued to. . .)

In each of these four examples, that is probably the better word choice.

Because I am a growing writer
I'm careful to distinguish between this and that.


  1. You are a grammatical genius! Have you collected all this in a book that I can purchase somewhere?
    Blessed Holidays!

  2. Evelyn Kistler LondonDecember 17, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    In order to forestall the question "Where's the fourth example?" I suggest making a separate bullet point for the alternate, present-tense fix for the you third example. Or simply say, "three example."

    I read every one of your installments for the soon-to-be-famous little handbook Clear Up Your Writing Face: Common Problems of the Not-Yet-So-Great.

  3. Whoops, that should have been "your third example...".


What are your thoughts?