THAT is a Stupid Word

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:

  1. She said that it was in her best interest – delete.
  2. They walked down the stairs that are rather grand – use which.
  3. He visits the koala that he sponsors – delete.
  4. Judy thinks Angela is the sort of woman that enjoys tennis – use who.
  5. He assumed that they all wanted to singalong with him – delete.
  6. It takes a minute to realise that Sue is talking – delete.
  7. 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’.

That Word That Deleted

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.

CHALLENGE 

  • 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.

IMG_20190513_111412Like me, not everyone has a degree in English grammar, check further:
https://www.bkacontent.com/avoid-overusing-word-writing/
https://www.thefreedictionary.com/List-of-pronouns.htm
https://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/09/07/that-who-which/

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

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Reading Hour – One Lousy Hour!

How pathetic!  We have 24 glorious hours in a day and only one is chosen!  And it’s not even held simultaneously around the country!  Have you read your one hour today?

Australian Reading Hour Bookshop Logo

This year Australian Reading Hour falls on Thursday 20 September 2018 and the nominal time in the evening is 6pm to 7pm.  But individual reading and group reads will be happening all day to avoid important sporting fixtures, special events and venue opening hours, and to accommodate the different time zones in Australia.

Fair enough, however, it’s still one lousy hour!  What is the Australian Reading Hour committee thinking?  There are 8760 hours in one year, so use some more of them.

If more hours aren’t forthcoming next year, why not (1) disrupt your sporting fixtures (2) put the special event on hold (3) pause during venue opening hours (4) delay that visit to the gym and (5) forget a few things to stop and READ for ONE lousy hour!

Meanwhile, find a really quiet, cosy place and settle down alone.  Betcha read for longer than an hour!

Or gather a group together at school, work, bookshops like Avid Reader, the library, the park or get the family together in your own home and read, read, read for one lousy hour.

One hour isn’t going to kill you, the world won’t crumble around you – but you and the adults and children of Australia will visit another place through the pages of a book.  For one lousy hour…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linked to my other post https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/09/16/your-reading-hour-countdown/

Recipe for Successful Blogging: The Beginners Guide

This guide to successful blogging certainly offers sound advice–

Renee Irving Lee

Blogging has been dubbed the gamechanger of content marketing, and it’s no wonder when you look at statistics like this:

  • Websites that have a blog, get 434% more indexed pages.
  • 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on a blog.
  • 70% of consumers learn about a company through blogs rather than paid ads.
  • Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links.

(Source: TechClient)

I recently had the pleasure of presenting a ‘Blogging for Beginners’ workshop at the PowerHouse Collective, in Noosa to a room full of businesswomen wanting to know the recipe for successful blogging.  For those that couldn’t make it to the workshop, here is the basic rundown of what we covered:

The recipe of a successful blog = MEANINGFUL CONTENT + READABILITY

Successful Blog =

MEANINGFUL CONTENT

The first key ingredient to successful business blogging is that you need to produce meaningful content that will add value to the newsfeed…

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I Agree with Herbert

H G Wells House Plaque
Plaque by the H. G. Wells Society at Chiltern Court, Baker Street in the City of Westminster, London, where Wells lived between 1930 and 1936.

“No compulsion in the world is stronger than the urge to edit someone else’s document” said Herbert George Wells, and I know the feels––Herbert is better recognised as H. G. Wells, an exceptional English author, satirist and biographer (21 Sept 1866 – 13 Aug 1946) who famously wrote The Invisible ManWar of the Worlds and The Time Machine.

I can understand how the fingers of Mr Wells must have itched, his brain must have misfired and his breath must have been shallow as he read a paragraph which badly needed editing.  Indeed, I often wonder how some books (or e-books) get into print when it is glaringly obvious they need a bit of trimming and correction.

Just recently I read an e-book with blurb announcing an award, author kudos and high sales.  Undeserved as far as I’m concerned.  Why?  The author had no idea of descriptive body language.  The best he could do was “He frowned”, “She frowned”, and for variety “He scowled”, “She scowled” until I deleted the book at “She wrinkled her brow”.

How did this get loose and launched on the general reading public?  I’m sure Rule 101 is “If in doubt, substitute ‘said’ and let the dialogue do the work”.  Don’t repeat yourself.  Unpublished as I am, I guess the writer can sneer and say “Well, I got the pay cheque and you didn’t” but I can retort with “Have some integrity.”  Or go back to writing classes.

It’s easy to think “Not all publishing houses are that blind” but, oh, many are.  If you haven’t read a book with an error, you haven’t read enough books.  Pathetically, hardly a week goes by without my subconscious editing a typo or tidying a sentence.  I will never know how efficient I am, whether I am always right, but, man, it makes me feel better!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Proofreading Copy Editing Banner
Proof-reading is the first step, make it count…

Can Listicles Rot Your Brain?

Listicle List 04

Is a listicle clickbait, fun facts written for readers with short attention spans, or an orderly way to write information?

First of all, the word listicle is comprised of two words, list and article, and features numbered sentences.  The salient content is brief, frequently light on facts, often humorous and has an almost hypnotic quality.  There is a compulsion to read a listicle to the end but this can leave a feeling of dissatisfaction.  Yet, as time and the internet marches on, readers can’t get enough of them.  Accordingly, listicles have transcended dot points and editorial shortcuts to become the layout of choice for everyday writers and bloggers needing a quick and easy-to-read solution.

Listicle List 01

You know what to expect by the heading of a listicle, usually important nonsense, so opinions are divided on their usefulness.  Are they ever meant to be taken seriously?  Many people think so, but that’s probably because they are writing a how-to manual.

Back when a listicle in a magazine was called a Guide or Questionnaire, and had titles like “Ten Ways To Find Out If Your Boyfriend Really Loves You”, the format was short, numbered sentences and had ten boxes to tick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and ended with your score.  Listicles have morphed into a more sophisticated version of this ‘filler’ yet still pretend to be useful data, advice or handy hints to enhance your lifestyle.

Listicle List 02

So, does this glossary format, this amusing fad with the cute name, continue on or can it be classed as nouveau 21st century literacy?

It doesn’t affect my reading ability (heck, I’ve re-blogged them myself) and I tend to treat a listicle as an expurgation, a beguiling and abridged version of real reading.  Just type in ‘listicle websites’ and have a look at the content.  Hardly literature at its finest even allowing for sentences stripped bare.

There are as many ‘for’ and ‘against’ stories as there are listicles.  Here are 3 of my favourite takes on listicles with apologies for not making it 10––

Listicle List 03

(1)  Excerpt from “What Is A Listicle?”
https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-listicle-1691130
From Richard Nordquist comes this Garrison Keillor slice of the Darker Side Of Listicles, an interview with the writer who popularised listicles (or did he?) and asks him––

Q: Do you have any idea what damage you’ve done, Jim? You’ve made people more stupid. Some of your readers now find it hard to read paragraphs that aren’t numbered.
A: How many? A lot?

Listicle List 08

(2)  Excerpt from Mark O’Connell “Ten Paragraphs About Lists You Need in Your Life Right Now” The New Yorker, August 29, 2013
https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/10-paragraphs-about-lists-you-need-in-your-life-right-now
“The rise of the listicle obviously connects with the internet’s much-discussed effect on our ability (or desire) to sit still and concentrate on one thing for longer than ninety seconds. Contemporary media culture prioritises the smart take, the sound bite, the takeaway––and the list is the takeaway in its most convenient form. But even when the list, or the listicle, has nothing really to do with useful information, it still exerts an occult force on our attention––or on my attention, at any rate. (’34 Things That Will Make ’90s Girls Feel Old.’ ’19 Facts Only a Greek in the U.K. Can Understand.’ ’21 Kinds of Offal, Ranked By How Gross They Look.’) Like many of you, I am more inclined to click on links to articles that don’t reflect my interests if they happen to be in the form of countdowns. And I suspect my sheep-like behaviour has something to do with the passive construction of that last sentence. The list is an oddly submissive reading experience. You are, initially, sucked in by the promise of a neatly quantified serving of information or diversion….Once you’ve begun reading, a strange magnetism of the pointless asserts itself.”
Note how Mark O’Connell has numbered all his paragraphs.

Listicle 06

(3)  On the flip side, here is an excerpt from pro-listicle website “Five Reasons Listicles Are Here to Stay and Why That’s OK”
https://www.wired.com/2014/01/defense-listicle-list-article/
Rachel Edidin talks about ‘active progression’ and ‘lane-markers’ and her opening comment launches straight into battle “Lists are everywhere. They’re the bread and butter of sites like Cracked and BuzzFeed, and regular content or sporadic filler at dozens more. (Yes, even WIRED). From the multimedia gallery to the humble Top 10, list-format articles – listicles – are rapidly becoming the lingua franca of new-media journalism…” and later says “… listicles are just another tool in the box.”

Listicle

Listicle List 06

Listicle List 07

If you are a listicle fan, you won’t be reading this blog post.
For those who have struggled this far, here is a bonus extra:

On a scrap of paper, I’ve just written my higgledy piggledy shopping list––or is it?

1.     Bread, flour.
2.     Milk, butter, cheese.
3.     Coffee, green tea.
4.     Apples, oranges, pears.
5.     Potatoes, carrots.
6.     Basil, thyme, rosemary.
7.     Eggs, chicken.
8.     Gnocchi, penne, ravioli.
9.     Tuna, salmon.
10.   Basmati, paella.

Did you read to the end?

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The Comfy Couch

 

Friends Couch 07
Comfy

(Rewriting metaphor)  The paddocks of writing are strewn with rough drafts.  You kick, trip, fall, get up and struggle your way across rugged terrain until you see a smooth pebble ahead.  The closer you get, the more polished it becomes.  Eventually you walk over golden sand and reach out; that pebble has become a jewel.  The following children’s picture book story is still a pebble.

(Living room)
Everyone in Neil’s family wants to sit on the soft cosy comfy couch.
Because the soft cosy comfy couch is the best place to sit.
But sometimes it’s just not big enough.

(Takeover)
Sometimes Neil can’t sit down to read his book because his two brothers and Tiny the dog sit down first.  And they spread out.

(Solid cushion)
So Neil tries to sit on a hard red cushion but slides off – bump!

(Kitchen chair)
Just when Neil goes to sit down on the front doorstep with his book, it is time for lunch.
The cushion on the kitchen chair is very thin.  Neil wriggles to get comfortable.
The thin cushion slips down and lands in the cat’s food.

(Various seats)
Neil’s mother watches a movie with Tiny the dog and Rat the cat snoozing on either side.
No room to squeeze in there.
So Neil drags in
a cardboard box – squash!
a wooden stool – crack!
a blue highchair – topple!
Everyone ends up grumpy so Neil goes outside to find a relaxing place to read.

(Outdoors)
In the garden the washing flaps across the wooden seat like a ghost – wooooo!
When the hammock swings back and forth too much it makes Neil feel dizzy.
He falls out – plop!

(Tree)
His leafy perch on a branch in the tree is swooped by noisy magpies – ouch!
Neil tucks his book inside his t-shirt and scrambles down.

(Various places)
The chicken roost, the guinea pig hutch and the vegetable patch are no good.

(Swimming pool)
Neil likes the idea of floating and reading.
It’s difficult to balance and read a book on the floating pool mat – splash!
Tiny the dog jumps into the swimming pool and rescues the book.

(Rainy day)
Next day a headcold makes Neil sneeze and sneeze and sneeze.
But he has a new book to read.
And he snuggles up, warm and happy on the soft cosy comfy couch.

(Family)
Then everyone decides to keep him company.
On the SQUASHY soft cosy comfy couch.Menagerie 01

Gretchen Bernet-Ward