Friday, August 24, 2012


Here's another thing I've been noticing a lot in my reviewing/critiquing of other writers' work.  The word 'that' is used way too much, and often in places it's not needed.

'That' is one of those very useful words, but in many cases, the sentence reads just as well without it.  Better usually.  I find it helpful to search my MS for 'that's, read the sentences aloud with the 'that' in there, and then without.  If it still makes sense without the 'that', it's cut.

For example:  She wants you to know that she’s visiting her mother.

If you write that sentence without the 'that', it still makes sense and in fact reads more smoothly than with it there.  See?  

She wants you to know she’s visiting her mother.

There are, of course, places where you really need to use 'that' or the sentence doesn't make sense, so don't go cutting them all out just because you realize you've got 12 on one page.....

Do you overuse 'that'?


  1. I do my best to get rid of them, but I don't always take them out. I remember when I first started writing -- I put "that" all over the place. Why? 'Cause I was just a reader, and it sounded normal to me. So I think it's one of those words that's only noticed by professional writers, not your average reader.

    1. It is kind of an invisible word. I'm just super conscious of anything that can be cut to reduce word count. Especially at the moment. I'm trying to cut a 3K story to 1200 without destroying it. I'm 130 words off now, but I don't think I can get rid of those last words....

  2. I'm not a fan of "that" so I tend to cut too many. LOL. My editor actually added one back in for me because the sentence would've been a little confusing without it. So I agree that sometimes they are needed.

  3. That is a horrible problem for me. In one of my manuscripts, I had over 800. Ouch. Cut it waaaay down. Sometimes I was using it wrong, needed a which or who, but most of the time it was unnecessary.

  4. Yep, this is a bad one. Thank goodness for the find feature in word. I think it's the natural way we talk so when writing (a rough draft) I slide it in there without even noticing.

  5. Funny, Like Kelly, I try to avoid it but during rewrites, I find it's crept into my WIP...I swear, they just pop up like daisies.

  6. I agree with Sarah -- for me, it seems like the 'that' problem is in how I talk, which I then translate to my writing. When I'm writing, I don't even notice it. When I'm editing, though, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

  7. "That" shows up in our spoken language so often it's almost impossible to not have it peppered all over my writing. I'll definitely have to keep a sharp eye out for that!