THAT debate rages on. THAT is an overused, unnecessary word, a redundant filler which bulks out your manuscript and changes just about anything into THAT nothingness.
Increasingly, ambiguous THAT is being used instead of ‘who’ and ‘which’ or more descriptive words to introduce a defining clause. This is happening universally in writing today; THAT is slowing and neutralising sentences.
Seven examples where THAT is incorrect or useless, write your own, you get my drift:
- She said that it was in her best interest – delete.
- They walked down the stairs that are rather grand – use which.
- He visits the koala that he sponsors – delete.
- Judy thinks Angela is the sort of woman that enjoys tennis – use who.
- He assumed that they all wanted to singalong with him – delete.
- It takes a minute to realise that Sue is talking – delete.
- Tom has to tell her that her dog has been stolen – OK-ish.
A pronoun is a word taking the place of a noun. THAT is a demonstrative pronoun and used in the right context it has a legitimate reason to exist, e.g. ‘That’s a good idea’.
It is perfectly valid when THAT appears in character dialogue, but when a writer indiscriminately uses THAT in other areas of their work, I find it needlessly clunky.
Of course, you can change a passive voice to an active voice, or use the rule ‘Who is a person, THAT is an object’. Remember ‘Who, what, when, where, why’ to help you decide.
On the other hand, there’s always exceptions. Use your own discretion as to where you like or don’t like THAT, and where THAT actually does fit in your sentence. Once you become aware of THAT, you will probably get rid of it unless you use American English.
- Read through text or a draft you have written in the last month.
- Check for how many time you use the word THAT.
- Are you surprised at your usage?
- Could you use a more expressive word than THAT?
- Could you condense your word count by omitting THAT?
- Read a novel or document and watch for THAT exploitation.
Like me, not everyone has a degree in English grammar, check further:
If there’s a ‘Ditch THAT’ campaign running, I will sign up!
Why? Because current literary exertion is being spent on THAT, an overworked and superfluous word. What more can I say about THAT? Or, what more can I say?
‘That’s all, folks’
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward