The EFC Writer – THAT

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer — a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing.  

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: “THAT”

To put it simply, “THAT” is a decidedly non-exciting word, and you’re almost certainly misusing it.  My guess is you type it without thinking about it — likely while the rest of your brain is trying to figure out how Frankenfeld is going to find the magical crystal before the full moon or something.  You’re letting your creative mind wander along the plot line while you type, and that’s awesome.  BUT.  You, my writery friend, need to edit ‘THAT’ out.  Here’s why:

  • Bob kept telling Sally that she was pretty.
  • Bob kept telling Sally she was pretty.
  • The bathroom that I painted yesterday needs another coat.
  • The bathroom I painted yesterday needs another coat.
  • The phone that I picked out with my brother broke, so I told him that I need a new one.
  • The phone I picked out with my brother broke, so I told him I need a new one.

Which sentences do you like better?  Which ones read more cleanly?  Which ones are more precise?  If you can remove the word “that” from your sentence and it still makes sense, then I encourage you to REMOVE THE WORD “THAT.”  Seriously.  Get rid of it.  It’s filler, it’s a boring word, and there’s no mandatory word count because you’re not in high school anymore.  Plus, you’re using it incorrectly anyway.  Edit ‘THAT’ out.  Do it.  Trust me.

 

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

Don’t use “that” as a conjunction or a relative pronoun (unless your sentence is a question) — it’s almost always superfluous.

 

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

1that – pronoun \ˈthat, thət\

plural those 

Definition of THAT

1a :  the person, thing, or idea indicated, mentioned, or understood from the situation <that is my father>
b :  the time, action, or event specified <after that I went to bed>
c :  the kind or thing specified as follows <the purest water is that produced by distillation>
d :  one or a group of the indicated kind <thats a cat — quick and agile>
2a :  the one farther away or less immediately under observation or discussion <those are maples and these are elms>
b :  the former one
3a —used as a function word after and to indicate emphatic repetition of the idea expressed by a previous word or phrase <he was helpful, and that to an unusual degree>
b —used as a function word immediately before or after a word group consisting of a verbal auxiliary or a form of the verb be preceded by there or a personal pronoun subject to indicate emphatic repetition of the idea expressed by a previous verb or predicate noun or predicate adjective <is she capable? She is that>
4a :  the one :  the thing :  the kind :  something, anything<the truth of that which is true> <the senses are thatwhereby we experience the world> <what’s that you say>
b plural :  some persons <those who think the time has come>

all that

:  everything of the kind indicated <tact, discretion, andall that>

at that

1:  in spite of what has been said or implied
2:  in addition :

2that – conjunction \thət, ˈthat\

—used to introduce a clause that is the subject or object of a verb

—used to introduce a clause that completes or explains the meaning of a previous noun or adjective or of the pronounit

—used to introduce a clause that states a reason or purpose

Full Definition of THAT

1a (1) —used as a function word to introduce a noun clause that is usually the subject or object of a verb or a predicate nominative <said that he was afraid> (2) —used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause that is anticipated by the expletive it occurring as subject of the verb <it is unlikely that he’ll be in> (3) —used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause that is joined as complement to a noun or adjective <we are certain that this is true> <the fact that you are here> (4) —used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause modifying an adverb or adverbial expression <will go anywhere that he is invited>
b —used as a function word to introduce an exclamatory clause expressing a strong emotion especially of surprise, sorrow, or indignation <that it should come to this!>
2a (1) —used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause expressing purpose or desired result <cutting down expenses that her son might inherit an unencumbered estate — W. B. Yeats> (2) —used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause expressing a reason or cause <rejoicethat you are lightened of a load — Robert Browning> (3) —used as a function word to introduce a subordinate clause expressing consequence, result, or effect <are of sufficient importance that they cannot be neglected — Hannah Wormington>
b —used as a function word to introduce an exclamatory clause expressing a wish <oh, that he would come>
3—used as a function word after a subordinating conjunction without modifying its meaning <if that thy bent of love be honorable — Shakespeare>

3that – adjective

—used to indicate which person, thing, or idea is being shown, pointed to, or mentioned

—used to indicate the one that is farther away or less familiar

: the other

plural those

Full Definition of THAT

1a :  being the person, thing, or idea specified, mentioned, or understood
b :  being the one specified —usually used for emphasis<that rarity among leaders> <that brother of yours>
c :  so great a :  such
2:  the farther away or less immediately under observation or discussion <this chair or that one>

4that – pronoun \thət, ˈthat\

1—used as a function word to introduce a restrictive relative clause and to serve as a substitute within that clause for the substantive modified by the clause <the house that Jack built> <I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me — Shakespeare>
2a :  at which :  in which :  on which :  by which :  with which:  to which <each year that the lectures are given>
b :  according to what :  to the extent of what —used after a negative <has never been here that I know of>
3a archaic :  that which
b obsolete :  the person who

5that – adverb \ˈthat\

: to the degree that is stated or suggested

: to the degree or extent indicated by a gesture

: to a great degree

Full Definition of THAT

1:  to such an extent <a nail about that long>
2:  very, extremely —usually used with the negative <did not take the festival that seriously — Eric Goldman>

“That.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/that>.

 

 

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melissasig

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Comments

  1. Yeah, let’s call that bad boy “that” out. I especially hate using “that” instead of who or whom. Example: “The cousin that I gave the necklace to…” Er, no.

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