Grammar Tip – Who versus That

Who Versus That

I have noticed lately that there seems to be an increasing use of the word that in news reporting rather than the word who.

The soldiers that fought in the battle.

It is not incorrect. You can use that for both objects and people, but it is not frequently used for people. I would have said “the soldiers who.” Apparently, using that is supposed to give a reporter some emotional distance.

Be that as it may, for business writing let’s stick to the basics: ?use who when referring to people and that for non-human things.



The organization who hired 100 new employees.


The organization that hired 100 new employees.


The woman that will speak tonight is an expert in her field.


The woman who will speak tonight is an expert in her field.

Remember, that starts a restrictive clause (a clause essential to the meaning of the sentence). You do not place commas around it.