Editing · Writing

Let’s Talk About “That”

No, I don’t meant that as a euphemism. I’ve been posting advice on Twitter, but I keep forgetting to update my blog. And let’s be honest here, I can give way better advice when I have more than 140 characters to work with.

Recently I mentioned on Twitter to be careful about overusing the word that. You might not think you use that often, but if you do a search and find on a manuscript you might be surprised at how many hits turn up. I often see that being used as a filler word where it can be deleted without changing the sentence. Sure, that can serve legitimate writing purposes, but when I see it being overused, its often as a filler word. Doing a search can make it easy to get rid of these instances. If you use that constantly, the word can get distracting and repetitive. And when it’s used as a filler, it’s best to just get rid of it.

Let’s go through some examples now. “I think that spiders are gross and icky.” You can get rid of that without changing the meaning. “I think spiders are gross and icky.” In a similar vein, “I miss the umbrella that I lost last week,” can be shortened to “I miss the umbrella I lost last week.” The sentences keep the same meaning while becoming more concise.

When searching for instances of that to delete, read the sentence without that to see if the sentence still makes just as much sense as it did with that. If it does, get rid of that. If you have trouble overusing that as a filler word constantly, doing a search for it and deleting the filler instances will show you how you overuse the word so you can start breaking the habit.




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