Blouse, Tommy. Skirt, Banana Republic. Sandals, Nine West.
A couple of months ago, a fellow amateur grammarian wanted to discuss restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. Since I owe you guys several posts on the topic, I thought I'd start to make up for lost time by partly recycling my email exchanges with the Grammatical Geoffrey.
Let us examine the following phrases:
I have a husband, who is a sharp dresser.
I have a husband who is a sharp dresser.
Punctuation is possibly the most overlooked aspect of writing, even though it can make a world of difference. That strategically placed comma gives the first phrase a completely different meaning. I have a husband, who is a sharp dresser means that I am monogamous and my husband happens to be a sharp dresser (lucky me!). In boring terms, it is called a non-restrictive or parenthetic clause and it is used to introduce new information.
I have a husband who is a sharp dresser is a restrictive or non-parenthetic clause and it leaves room for polygamy and a lack of style. The phrase could just as naturally become: I have a husband who is a sharp dresser and another who favors the Canadian tuxedo (the horror). In writing, I've found it helpful to replace who/which with that in restrictive clauses. And that concludes today's lesson!
P.S. The husband in these examples is fictional. Please don't send any belated gravy boats.
P.P.S. Polygamy? Did I just go there? For those who might be offended, I should tell you that I believe in absolute gender equality. If certain men can take multiple wives, then women should be able to do it as well (I just pitched Brother Husbands to TLC).