Take a look at this sentence from an article that appeared shortly before the election: You could do a survey, which is merely a collection of answers from whomever cares enough to answer the survey. Did the author and editor get everything right? Nope, and here’s why.

Even the pros can get tripped up when deciding whether whoever or whomever (or who or whom) follows a preposition like from, so let’s back up a moment.

We know from our school days that an object of a preposition needs to be in objective case. That would mean, for instance, we want to him not to he, after us not after we, off me not off I, and from whomever not from whoever. But this sentence is trickier.

We are supposed to treat the entire clause whomever cares enough to answer the survey as the object of the preposition. Therefore, within that clause, the pronoun needs to be in subjective case as the subject of cares. (After all, we’d never write or say him cares or me cares, right?) So we want from whoever cares enough to answer the survey.

My advice

Because whom and whomever have an air of formality, and we often want our writing to sound natural, we can save time and stress by not overthinking and just sticking with the generally well accepted who and whoever, with three exceptions:
• You are writing a document that should be more formal, so you want to rise above a conversational tone.
• You know the reader is a stickler for correctness.
• You are a stickler for correctness.

You can go to http://www.normfriedman.com/index.shtml to learn more about my workshops on writing in the workplace, individual coaching, editing, and handbook – 100+ Instant Writing Tips. Thank you.

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