I’m just as befuddled by grammar anomalies as anyone. I marvel, after all these years, at the oddities that still crop up to make editing interesting. Olusola Akinwale, a longtime Newsletter subscriber from Lagos, Nigeria, who works as a research analyst in his country, asked about this line he’d seen, which a scholar challenged: “I crack my knuckles, which produces silence.” I looked at this grammar run for a while and once again turned to my copyeditor, Martha Moffett, and her 50-plus years of copyediting acumen, for the answer.
She told me that “I crack my knuckles, which produces silence” is correct grammar, in that “which” doesn’t have to refer to just the noun at the end of the preceding clause (knuckles)–it can refer to the entire preceding clause. Thus, in this instance, the entire clause determines whether the verb is the singular “produce” or the plural “produces.” It’s sort of like “I clap my hands, which stops the conversation.” However, usually the syntax’s construction does refer to just that final noun, hence: “I crack my knuckles, which then ache.” This sort of grammar “stuff” keeps a lot of us who edit in business. And there’s no “ha ha” tagged onto the end of this.
Olusola’s short story, St, Pauli, was recently published in Western Post. Olusola tells me that he sees writing as an opportunity to live another life through his characters. Anyone who’s received my Newsletters for any time at all is aware of how often I discuss this very tenet. It’s one of the primary reasons I stress the importance of writing protagonists with redemptive characteristics. Please take a moment to check out Olusola’s short story. Learning about other cultures often shows us how much we are all truly the same philosophically. Truth, honor, and wisdom are universal, regardless of geography.