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I am editing a court transcript for a class (cannot alter the text). For each change I make, I need to cite a rule for it. I have read a lot about the use of which and that, and I am still confused on this sentence.

I feel that it needs a comma before which, but I am unsure what the “official” reasoning would be. I know that, normally, that should be used for restrictive clauses, and which should be used for non-restrictive clauses, but I am unsure if it was spoken correctly.

Or is it because there is only one Exhibit 2, making the which clause non-essential (non-restrictive), and therefore a comma is needed?

We’ve put in front of you Exhibit 2 which is a Visa statement of account.

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    Please do not put commas inside your quote marks when you are talking about things where it actually matters: there needs to be a difference between "which", "which,", "that", and "that,", or no one will understand what you mean. I’ve switched your formatting to the preferred italic version instead of using quotes to help make this clearer.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 19:01
  • Yes/No answers are GR; the rest are 'mainly opinion-based' OTs.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 6:27

3 Answers 3

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In your example, which is a Visa statement of account looks like a supplementary (non-restrictive, non-defining) relative clause, although it would be necessary to see the wider context to be sure. If it is, then a comma before which would be appropriate for that reason.

For more on which and that, see here.

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    Sorry, everyone- I should have researched how things work here before I started posting! I've now figured out how to accept answers. I apologize for my ignorance; no ill-will intended!
    – jennifer
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 20:24
  • @jennifer That's but natural, relax. You may delete that comment even, it's not needed.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 6:12
  • Follow the Fowler rule if you want to; it’s up to you, is what Pullum concluded there. Not much help.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 6:23
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For many English writers (nobody knows how many, but at least a substantial minority -- or maybe a majority -- of the best ones), comma usage is not a matter of grammar, so which word is used is irrelevant -- rather, it's the intonation of the spoken words that counts.

These English writers use commas to indicate intonation dips. And many English readers interpret them that way. Certainly I do.

So the rule is to listen to the transcript of the speakers' voices, and put in commas according to their intonation.

Failing that, any insertion of commas into a text-only legal transcript is altering the document, since it offers the judgements of the editor instead of the transcriber.

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    Once in a while, that comma has a great semantic significance. And considering the OP's context of legal drafting, that can mean a lot. Well said, any insertion of commas into a text-only legal transcript is altering the document, in its spirit though not letter.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 6:15
  • Once in a while, that intonation dip has a great semantic significance. If you can hear it in your mind's ear. Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 16:54
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You need a comma in that situation. "Which" is used for non-restrictive clauses, that for restrictive clauses.

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    Not true. See here: chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2012/12/07/… Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 18:45
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    @BarrieEngland It is distressing how many of these “invented” non(sense)-rules are used to bash people with. I wanted a nice canonical rebuttal, and had once read something like this that Pullum published previously, but had misplaced it. So thanks for the new link.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 18:47
  • @aszekely - Except that in reality, it isn't actually true that "which" is used exclusively for non-restrictive clauses and "that" for restrictive. This is an invention that some commentators advocate but there is no intrinsic compulsion to follow it and it is far from universally adopted. Or in other words, you only "need" a comma if you arbitrarily decide to follow that convention. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 19:37

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