General Writing and Grammar Help/Use of "when" with "date"

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Question
I am in the midst of a discussion with another fellow tech writer on whether the general writing rule of thumb is to use "when" in a sentence to describe a date field on a web page for a technical user manual about the web page. Is it better to write "It displays the date when the materials are to be received." or "It displays the date that the materials are to be received."?

The question pertains to the use of "when" vs. "that" associated with "date" in a sentence.

Answer
Dear Mitch:

  I am in the midst of a discussion with another fellow tech writer on whether the general writing rule of thumb is to use "when" in a sentence to describe a date field on a web page for a technical user manual about the web page. Is it better to write "It displays the date when the materials are to be received." or "It displays the date that the materials are to be received."?

The question pertains to the use of "when" vs. "that" associated with "date" in a sentence.

*** In your sentence, you need to RELATE the adjective clause to a word in the main that is being described.  Thus, you need to use a relative pronoun, the most common of which are that, who, whom, and which.

The word in the main clause is "date," a noun.  The proper relative adjective is "that."

The word "when" is an adverb.  Adverbs tell when, where, to what extent, why, etc.  Using "when" as a adjective is not good English, although it is becoming acceptable because of common usage.

The answer to your question is the grammatically correct "that."  If you want to be "casual," you can use "when," but I advise against it.  

Here is an interesting passage from the University of North Carolina:

http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/relative-clauses/

Ted Nesbitt

P. S.  Please evaluate my response with the form that comes with this message.  Thank you.

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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