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How Bad Is "that", Really?


Cynus

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Okay, so one of my editor's gets rid of almost every instance of the word "that". Most of the time I agree with him, because the sentence works fine without the word and it's only purpose is filler, but there are a few instances where the sentence sounds weird to me without it.

 

Here are a few examples of the times where he deletes it, but I feel weird about it.

 

He knew that there was money in his account. He had checked his account only an hour ago. (I thing I can see it on this one, which is why I'm questioning my own sanity)

 

This was the first time he had had an opportunity to interact with anyone else in their dormitory, and he noticed that those who were still wearing nametags all had ones written in Korean.

 

Is this a factor of my bad habit of using "that" in my speech, and it really doesn't belong in that second sentence? Or is that a proper usage?

I only want to ensure I'm writing properly in the future, and that it's a habit I need to change.

 

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That is a somewhat subjective editing element. Technically, both instances that can be removed without affecting the meaning of the sentence, but I agree, with the 2nd one I'd be more inclined to leave it in.

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I self edit the heck out of that word! 

 

In the second instance, I'd take it out, and would also remove 'who were' after those. But as Cia said it's subjective.

 

Over use is what kills me. I'm reading a story right now in which I skip reading the damn word 'cause it's in almost every sentence. Reminds me of most jocks and their use of 'you know' whenever they're interviewed.

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I go through the same thing with my own editing and writing.  Either way is technically correct, so it's a matter of personal preference.  I think the first sentence reads ok with or without it, but I think the second sentence sounds better if you leave it in. 

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Believe it or not, knowing that it's subjective is a perfect enough answer. :) Thank you everyone for your responses. 

I definitely overuse the word, but now I have a bit more confidence to keep it in when it feels weird to me.  :P

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Anyone can write and follow the rules.

 

The real art of writing is figuring out when and where to break those rules.

 

Some things are appropriate for dialog that would never pass muster with a grammar Nazi.

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Okay, so one of my editor's gets rid of almost every instance of the word "that". Most of the time I agree with him, because the sentence works fine without the word and it's only purpose is filler, but there are a few instances where the sentence sounds weird to me without it.

 

I have an editor like that too. It's helpful because most of the time I follow the suggestion, but there are cases when I feel uncomfortable about it, and I know those are the ones where I have to think it over and perhaps leave that in.

And the funny thing is I now remove thats when I'm editing, even if I'm still using 'that' too much when writing. :rolleyes:

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I have an editor like that too. It's helpful because most of the time I follow the suggestion, but there are cases when I feel uncomfortable about it, and I know those are the ones where I have to think it over and perhaps leave that in.

And the funny thing is I now remove thats when I'm editing, even if I'm still using 'that' too much when writing. :rolleyes:

Yeah, I can attest to that :rolleyes:, but in most cases my lovely and talented editor is correct. There are times however, when I rebel. It has to sound right to me, to roll the sentence along. Thanks to Zombie for the preceding link. 'Garden path sentences' are what I look out for. If the meaning changes or it could muddy the sentence through removal, I make the choice to leave it in. I also liked the part in the link where it point's out that a comma can clarify the intended purpose if you do remove a 'that'. I find it is sometimes the perfect solution. Tim has me trained to go through my work and look at every 'that' before I send it to him... if he ever knew how many I take out before he sees it :boy::P.

Edited by Headstall
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Yeah, I can attest to that :rolleyes:, but in most cases my lovely and talented editor is correct.

Tim has me trained to go through my work and look at every 'that' before I send it to him... if he ever knew how many I take out before he sees it :boy::P.

 

I can say those exact words about my awesome editor, Kitt. :lol:

oh and :heart: since I'm still out of likes.

I did wonder why I wasn't removing so many thats lately.

Edited by Timothy M.
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LOL You can blame LJH for my that-hunting. I started with his list of the 5 most misused or overused words, (that, then, than, just and so) and began checking every usage of them using the word find feature. My list of words to check has grown to 65 for every chapter I edit, but those 5 and the there, their, they're usage accounts for a majority of the red ink I leave in my wake.

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  • 2 weeks later...

'That' is like 'very' or 'just'. It turns up a lot and can really get in the way when it does, but that doesn't mean that it should never ever be used. As with everything else it's all about balance. Your editor will point them all out, and in the end it's up to you and your own judgment which ones you keep in and which ones you don't.

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  • 3 months later...

I don't personally like using it, I find it doesn't really add anything to the sentences, it's almost a form of word-filler. On the other hand, there's nothing particularly wrong with it from what I've seen of your usage of the word, but then I don't think I'd be the right one to ask because of how infrequently I find myself using the word.

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  • 2 months later...

I had an English teacher in high school who'd draw a red line at her first sight of a "very." She'd refuse to read anything below the line, and she'd give the paper an F.

 

That cured me of "very." Rules are made to be broken, and they're subjective, and there's (surely??) a reason "very" is in the language. But I don't have any use for it, and I haven't missed it.

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I think that the main issue people have with "very" is that for (almost) every single expression composed of "very + adjective", there is a specific word who refers to the same concept - if it's not even more precise. Like, I don't know... "I was very sad" => "I was depressed/mournful/devastated".

 

But as for "that", or any other controversial word/punctuation, I don't really believe in "hard-coded rules" of usage. Rules should be taken as an aid and not enforced blindly.

For most of words, the line should be drawn at their overuse and whether it has a purpose and a "legitimacy" in the writing or not. You can use "very", "that", or whatever you want; as long as I don't find it every couple lines, I'm alright with it.

When I'm unsure about whether I should use this or that, I basically use common sense and refer to published authors I wrote. (I initially wrote "classic authors", but some can afford to take some writing liberties that would get most of unknown authors laughed at by an editor)

 

I had found a very useful "wheel of words" but I can't find it back. Though, this one may be useful, even to refresh some knowledge:

q6hcgsH.jpg

Edited by FieldMan
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I agree with Thorn. I'd say the word "very" (and, in fact, many adverbs) is a far bigger problem than "that's."

 

Very is also on my list. And I don't strike them out off hand, but read each sentence with and without the offender, or in the case of very, using an appropriate substitute. Sometimes that is just the right word to go in THAT spot!

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I think that the main issue people have with "very" is that for (almost) every single expression composed of "very + adjective", there is a specific word who refers to the same concept - if it's not even more precise. Like, I don't know... "I was very sad" => "I was depressed/mournful/devastated".

 

But as for "that", or any other controversial word/punctuation, I don't really believe in "hard-coded rules" of usage. Rules should be taken as an aid and not enforced blindly.

For most of words, the line should be drawn at their overuse and whether it has a purpose and a "legitimacy" in the writing or not. You can use "very", "that", or whatever you want; as long as I don't find it every couple lines, I'm alright with it.

When I'm unsure about whether I should use this or that, I basically use common sense and refer to published authors I wrote. (I initially wrote "classic authors", but some can afford to take some writing liberties that would get most of unknown authors laughed at by an editor)

 

I had found a very useful "wheel of words" but I can't find it back. Though, this one may be useful, even to refresh some knowledge:

q6hcgsH.jpg

 

Thank you! That's very useful, I've printed it :-)

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