Sunday, October 23, 2011


Submission Guidelines: Word Count – 2000
Beth’s word count: 2526

Submission Guidelines: Word Count – 800
Beth’s word count: 972

Yes, I am wordy.  And, yes, I have to do a great deal of editing.  Not on blog posts, although I probably should.  And I’m sure there are certain people who wish I was forced to adhere to a minimum word count in my emails.  As for Twitter?  I’m not yet ready to subject myself to the challenge of sticking to 140 characters.

One minor way to reduce my word count is to delete the word “that” whenever I’ve used it unnecessarily.  Which I do. 

Rule of thumb: If you read over your sentence and it makes sense without the word “that” – remove it.*

(I thought this was a good example because it uses “that” twice.)

I never knew that he felt that way.  (Get rid of the first “that.”)

I never knew he felt that way.  (The sentence makes sense minus the first “that” but the second “that” remains because it would NOT make sense if it read: “I never knew he felt way.”)

Are you still with me?

I don’t remember who gave me this advice but I’ve been using it ever since.  AND IT DRIVES ME CRAZY.  Instead of waiting for the editing process, I’m forever pausing to check my use of “that.”

Why am I sharing this with you?  Well, I thought it an interesting tidbit to pass along.  I’m also wondering if anyone else will now become as obsessive in regard to using the word “that.” 

Let me know.   ;)

*For a proper grammatical explanation re: the use of “that” – don’t rely on me – check all about pronouns, clauses, etc.


oreneta said...

Funnily in Catalan, the different 'that's in (that) your sentence are different words.

How about this one.

She said that that that that that girl used was correct.

Loving it or lost?

Sherry Smyth said...

That was something that I hadn't known so I'm happy that you shared that with us. And yes, this rule will now rule my life!! ;)

Trish said...

That's pretty cool. I didn't know that about that.

I tend to overuse the word 'and' - argh - it's everywhere!

Beth said...

Kept trying ‘til I got it! Love it!

That makes me so happy that that made you happy!

(hope things are okay – or as okay as they could possibly be...)

Next I will tackle “that” vs. “which.”

Gorilla Bananas said...

That's a good rule which I generally follow, but there are always exceptions. Sometimes a short sentence sounds too bald without a "that".

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Love that!


Beth said...

Agree – but can’t for the life of me come up with an example...too early in the day...

No deletion of that that!

Zhu said...

I learned the edit myself a lot (well, that's kind of my job so...). I love the exercice actually, trimming until it makes complete sense, removing the bulk to get to the point (which I'm totally not doing in that comment)...

I always doubt myself about "that". I.e. some people put it everywhere and I always wondered if there was a rule, outside the fact (that) it is sometimes necessary, like in your second example.

Barrie said...

Somehow I picked up the same rule and use it all the time! Also, I think "that" gets used more often down here. Also with "off of" which drives me insane. The rule of thumb for that one: Don't use two prepositions in a row. Happy Monday!

Beth said...

There are definitely rules as to its use but I’m just going to stick with my own very simple one.
Check out Oreneta’s comment for a “that” challenge!

Bet you have Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style always close at hand! I do. :)

Shari said...

Interesting. That was interesting. Very. I should try to use that word-"that" as an editing tool. I'm saying that a lot, aren't I? I said that because I wanted to drive you crazy with the word "that". That was mean, huh?

Seriously, trying to write a book. SLow process. Too critical I am.

(Note: ID din't type the word that in the last sentence. Oops. I just did it agai, but it wasn't the last sentence before the *Note. Smile.

nursemyra said...

I don't have a copy of Strunk and White's book but I swear by The King's English.

red-handed said...

Or you can just write in a sort of free-fall, like Cormac McCarthy, and break all the rules.

Beth said...

You could never drive me crazy. :)

I googled The King’s English and found this quotation from Fowler:
“Any one who wishes to become a good writer should endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid.”
I’ve added it to my “To Buy” list.

Tempting but I’m a play/write-by-the-rules sort of person. Don’t think I could change now… said...

We're in sync. I'm been obsessing over my overuse of THAT. Thanks for the reminder and for your support against Hershey's.

Angie Muresan said...

This is great advice, Beth, and I know I will us it.

Beth said...

We both obsess, overuse THAT & love chocolate – we are definitely in sync. :)

You might want to check a grammar source – don’t totally rely on me!

Travis Erwin said...

Now that, is a good point.

Beth said...

That it is! ;)

VE said...

Well...that's that!

laughingwolf said...

it IS way overused... i've been bitching about its overuse for years! [and edit it out of other's posts i put on my blog]

usually, removing a 'that', and replacing it with a ',' makes it more readable

what also gets me: that that! wtf?... AND referring to persons as 'that', instead of 'who'!
[as in 'people that...']

fyi: a current major fup duck most folk don't even realize they use, nor where it comes from: "if... then..."

seems everybody and their dog uses it... just to piss me off?

check its over-usage yourself, you find it all over! GRRRRR

it's originally from a computer programming language, BASIC, as i recall...

99.9% of today's users do NOT use it in reference to computers, programming or otherwise!

i've seen it used by doctors, for crying out loud!

the old saw still holds: ensure brain is engaged before putting mouth [in this case, fingers] in gear....

wv: ireist

Jaya J said...

i have a tendency to delete off 'that' too. but sometimes i get so worked up with it that i'd still have a 'that' here and there !