A well-known financial professional seemed to be hedging her bets in a recent piece she sent to us for review. Right off the bat, three sentences rubbed me the wrong way (but apparently not her Marcom team):
- It’s a win-win situation where the firm can provide higher-quality services, and the clients achieve better financial outcomes.
- In an age where economic uncertainties are more prevalent, clients seek advisors who can provide more than just compliance services.
- Visual learners find value in well-structured presentations such as PowerPoints or PDFs, where a picture can convey more than a thousand words.
Which sentence above do you think is correct? If you said “None of the above” then you’re right. In each instance, no specific place or location is specified. The author is referring to more abstract terms or concepts. She should have gone with “in which” as in: “It’s a win-win situation in which the firm can provide higher-quality services …..” The situation is NOT a place you can see or visit.
Again, I’m no grammarian and don’t aspire to be one. I just try to keep things simple when writing or editing. Here’s how I keep “Where” vs. “In Which” straight:
- Use “where” when referring to a specific, physical place. For example: “the city where I was born” or “the building where the conference is being held.”
- Use “in which” when referring to something more abstract or conceptual, rather than to a specific physical location. For example: “the circumstances in which the accident occurred” or “the era in which this style of art thrived.”
So, don’t write about a situation where…, a theory where…, a case where… a legal dispute where. Those are all cases to use “in which.”
But if you think “in which” is too formal or stuffy, you can bend the rules a little and use “Where” to refer to the status of a situation or circumstance. For instance:
- Where do you see this relationship going? Or
- “He took a plane to Morocco, where he met his cousin for the first time.
The above instances are okay to use “Where” and I won’t tell Mrs. McGillicuddy, your 8th grade English teacher.
Quick quiz: Fill in the blank
“Using a spreadsheet when a data warehouse was required created a situation _______ effective analysis was impossible.”
b. in which
Correct Answer: b (in which). The situation is not a physical location, it’s a scenario. You might find it easier to default to “where,” but when reviewing your work, please make sure you flag the “where” and then ask yourself if you’re referring to a physical location or a scenario. See, it’s easy.
Speaking of reviewing your work, I’m all for Grammarly, Spellcheck and AI, but there’s nothing more effective than reading your work back to yourself, preferably aloud. You’re a skilled professional with a personal brand to protect. With a little practice, you ear will usually help you arrive at the correct answer.
I know English is a maddeningly perverse language with more exceptions to the rule than the U.S. tax code. Just keep these simple tips in mind and you’ll be fine. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well you know the numbers, without a solid command of the English language, you won’t be taken seriously. After all, You’re an Elite Professional; Don’t Sound Like a Jamoke
#grammar; #businesscommunication; #thoughtleadership