Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky has forwarded to me a site with (yet another) little "grammar test" (a "Google Grammar Test", from Tyler Cowen) — this one has only two items — that makes me scratch my head.
(I guess I should remind you that in some quarters, "grammar" covers absolutely anything in language that can be regulated: discourse organization, syntax, word choice, morphological forms, stylistic choices, politeness formulas, punctuation, spelling, whatever. So, ahead of time, I had no idea which features of this very short passage might be seen as reprehensible. Was it, for instance, spelling homepage as a solid word, rather than as two separated words?)
Here's the passage:
Here’s what’s on Google’s home page on May 16, 2009:
Over 28,000 children drew doodles for our homepage.
Vote for the one that will appear here!
Test yourself: Can you find the two grammar errors?
and here are the answers (from Penelope Trunk):
The AP Stylebook says "over" is a way to move—a preposition. And “more than” must precede a number. Also, if you are voting for one, specific doodle, then the AP Stylebook tells you to use “which” rather than “that.”
Here I'm going to talk about the which/that issue. I'll save a return to the adverbial-over question for another time.
That vs. which in restrictive relative clauses has a history at least a century deep (the actual history is not important in the current context); we've posted about it endlessly on Language Log, arguing that both variants are available in modern standard English as restrictive relativizers. But many have denied this and propose to allow only one. The usual scheme for choosing relativizers is what I've called Fowler's Rule: that in restrictive relatives, which in non-restrictive relatives (it's more complicated than that, but this is the slogan version).
In fact, that's exactly what the AP Stylebook recommends — that in this case, which is punctuated as a restrictive — so the reference to it above is puzzling. Certainly, the AP Stylebook doesn't mention specificity or uniqueness. Here's the main part of what it says (in its current on-line version):
that, which (pronouns) Use that and which in referring to inanimate objects and to animals without a name. Use that for essential clauses, important to the meaning of a sentence, and without commas: I remember the day that we met. Use which for nonessential clauses, where the pronoun is less necessary, and use commas: The team, which finished last a year ago, is in first place.
(Note that this formulation folds in a recommendation against that used to refer to human beings.)
Uniquely referring NPs like the only solution to the problem can have either sort of relative:
The only solution to the problem that will satisfy them is to abandon the project. [restrictive]
The only solution to the problem, which will satisfy them, is to abandon the project. [non-restrictive]
But there's no denying that
(1) Vote for the one (doodle) that will win.
is weird, and which doesn't improve things:
(2) Vote for the one (doodle) which will win.
Making the relative clause non-restrictive makes things even worse (in this context, though you can imagine a context in which it might make sense — a context in which there is only one doodle in question):
(3) Vote for the one (doodle), which will win.
This is not an issue of grammar, but of content. The problem with (1) and (2) is that they appear to be saying that the reader should know which doodle will win, and telling the reader to vote for that one. That's just silly.
Whoever wrote the passage probably got into trouble by packaging two things into a single sentence using a relative clause:
Thing 1: Vote for one (doodle). That is, vote for your favorite doodle.
Thing 2: The winning doodle — the one with the most votes — will appear here.
You can put them together, but not with a relative clause; what you want is a coordination:
Vote for your favorite doodle, and the winner [quite probably not your favorite, out of 28,000] will appear here.
Both Thing 1 and Thing 2 involve uniqueness, but in different ways.
(4) Vote for one (doodle) that/which will appear here.
is neither grammatically nor pragmatically peculiar, but it's surely not what the Google writer had in mind, since Thing 2 implicates that only one doodle will appear on the site the Google posting links to. The non-restrictive counterpart,
(5) Vote for one (doodle), which will appear here.
is also neither grammatically nor pragmatically peculiar, but, again, it doesn't capture the writer's intent.
In the end, I suppose that most readers of the Google posting figured out its intent. I'm just saying that this was an inept way to try to get it across. That is, it's poor, but not ungrammatical, writing, and that vs. which is beside the point.