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Assume for a moment that an author does know how to use whom correctly. In an email (specifically), does using whom correctly make the author sound stuffy and formal, or would you say that in email, using who conversationally — potentially ungrammatically — is okay? For example:

  • Hey, thanks, I chatted with the guy whom you said would be calling.
  • Hey, thanks, I chatted with the guy who you said would be calling.
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I always try to use correct grammar. Why dumb down your correspondence? –  Tim Oct 6 '10 at 20:54
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@Tim: Which one is the dumbed down one? –  Kosmonaut Oct 7 '10 at 1:32
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@Kosmonaut - The dumbed down one would be the one that uses incorrect grammar. –  Tim Oct 7 '10 at 16:18
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ironically, whom is just wrong in your example. whom is supposed to be the object, like "I took him to the store. Whom did you take to the store?" However, your example would be: "You said he would be calling. Who did you say would be calling?" –  Claudiu Oct 7 '10 at 18:07
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

In my opinion, it depends entirely upon the intended audience.

For a business email, especially one in a 'formal' office (e.g. a government office, a Fortune 100 company, or any office that has people regularly appearing in suit jackets) it is, I think, entirely appropriate to use "whom."

For a personal email, the expectations are rather lower; it depends on your audience and your relationship with them--regardless of my ability, my SO and I have built a sort of private jargon that bears little resemblence to properly written English; "whom" does not often appear in our private correspondance.

For a business email in a less-than-formal setting (or an informal email between close business associates in a more formal setting) similar guidelines may apply.

As I work in an office more to the formal side of the continuum, I have been known to use 'whom' on occasion; nobody has complained yet.

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Most people don't know how to use whom and get it entirely wrong, but that doesn't mean it's archaic. Correct use of who/whom/whose is just as important as he/him/his, she/her/hers and it/it/its.

Your example, “the guy whom you said would be calling”, is not correct. The simplest way to see that is to replace who with he; your example then becomes, “you said him would be calling”, which is obviously wrong. The correct form would be “you said he would be calling”, so the original should be “who you said would be calling”.
(See also moioci's answer here.)

Having said that, in an informal email, I would be inclined to skip the whole issue and use: “I chatted with the guy you said would be calling.”

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Indeed, whom is still a necessary word within modern English (certainly British English, and I suspect other varieties too). It represents the accusative and dative (and possibly other) forms of the pronoun. –  Noldorin Oct 6 '10 at 21:02
    
Right, I am aware that "who" in the second example is incorrect -- that's why I included it, to show a place where in formal written English "whom" is correct but where it might sound stilted. (Consider the tone of the example sentence.) The question is about register and the use of "whom" specifically in informal written contexts like email. I get the actual grammar of the pronoun. –  Mike Pope Oct 6 '10 at 21:15
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"Who" in the second example is correct; the "whom" in the first example is incorrect. You wouldn't say, "you said him would be calling", would you? –  Richard Deeming Oct 7 '10 at 11:22
    
I feel like I have to keep pointing out that a) I know how to use whom and b) the presumption of the question was that the author of the example email would know this and c) it's a question not about knowing the difference, but about the use, in effect, of conversational tone in informal written texts like email. My second example was intended to convey something that people say (yes, they do), and would that be ok in informal writing, or does using "whom" in this type of context just sound stuffy. –  Mike Pope Oct 8 '10 at 16:49
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And I feel like I keep having to point out that you don't know how to use whom! Your example, "the guy whom you said would", is WRONG. –  Richard Deeming Oct 8 '10 at 18:57
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protected by RegDwigнt Sep 27 '12 at 9:36

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