THAT!


Deep into editing something of my own the last couple of days, I am astounded by my use of that. When editing for others, I pick the single word up when used as filler and stalling in a snap. In my own, phew. My editor highlights the word and my pages look like confetti. How can this be? I am certain that when I speak I don’t use that word that many times no matter how often that seems to fit in. Ummm, confetti time again. Not too sure highlights would show in a blog. In case it doesn’t, how about some samples of how not to use that too many times. We’ll start with the sentence I just used. I am certain when I speak I don’t use the same word so many times no matter how often the particular word seems to fit in. You will notice how often the particular word was simply deleted without hurting the sentence at all. Other times substitutes were used. Of course substitutes lead to other overused words such as it, that horrid undefined pronoun. The is another favorite. To avoid those, often times a complete rewording of the sentence is required.
Using what I’m working as examples:


1. Too much confetti.

 

The only thing that distracted him from those emotions was curiosity. That did indicate some level of intelligence. That was not, however, her first thought on waking. The sound was continual, and standing on the outside of the bathroom door, she was sure of what it was. Why would he be flushing the toilet time after time?

 

Much better.

 

The only thing to distract him from those emotions was curiosity to indicate some level of intelligence. His at least minimal degree of intelligence was not her first thought on waking. The sound was continual, and standing on the outside of the bathroom door, she was sure of what it was. Why would he be flushing the toilet time after time?

 

2. A couple more:

 

Following that, she mixed and matched, quizzing him. He didn’t have any problem picking that up and identifying each pair before he held up the pitiful bouquet.

She mixed and matched next, quizzing him. He didn’t have any problem picking either up and identifying each pair before he held up the pitiful bouquet.

 

    3. One more:

 

What progress in trust she had made the days before was gone. He was right back to his favorite phrase. That circumstance wasn’t going to make what she wanted to do that day easy. He’d have to trust her to get into the helicopter with her. She hoped that his curiosity would override any fear. She was disappointed.

 

What progress in trust she had made the days before was gone. He was right back to his favorite phrase, a circumstance to make what she wanted to do more difficult. He’d have to trust her to get into the helicopter with her. She hoped his curiosity would override any fear. She was disappointed.

 

While fixing the too many that’s keep this in mind also: who instead of that: who refers to a person. That refers to a thing.

 

Wrong: Judith was the only one that understood he didn’t know that he wasn’t simple. The men in town called him simple; the doctor called him simple. Judith was the only one that understood it was because he didn’t know, but Judith lied to him. There were Madelines, Madelines that hurt him without cause, Madelines that wanted him for milk, for mothers, for breeding.

 

Right: Judith was the only one who understood he didn’t know and wasn’t simple. The men in town called him simple; the doctor called him simple. Judith was the only one who understood it was because he didn’t know, but Judith lied to him. There were Madelines, Madelines to hurt him without cause, Madelines who wanted him for milk, for mothers, for breeding.

 

I have come to the conclusion, in the interest of saving time, I will highlight myself, looking for a single four letter word used repeatedly before I send in my manuscripts. I’m sure my editor will love me. A little trick for all of you to learn. Your editors will love you. 

 

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Posted on January 12, 2012, in New introduction. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Excellent blog. As I edited, I found myself using that quite frequently. And you’re right. When I’m having a conversation with a friend, I hardly use the word that. I keep the list of overused words and filler words next to my laptop. Eliminating those words make the story strong and keeps the pace flowing.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I’m afraid I’m a “that” user and when I first submitted my manuscripts, “that” had been highlighted in ridiculous amounts (much apologies to my wonderful editor, Lori Paige). Being aware of that nasty overused word now, I do exactly what you do, highlight them, edit as many as possible, and then submit my manuscript. Amazing how many times we use “that” word!!

    Great Post!!

    Daisy Dunn

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