What’s ‘that’ all about?

Adventures in editing. [Revisiting this and that]

One of the words we writers tend to overuse is the word ‘that’. If you don’t believe me, use your search/find option in your word processor’s editing tool and see how many times you find it in your work. Obviously, it is sometimes appropriate to use ‘that’ in your sentences, but other times it can be eliminated. Here’s an example:

“I think that this gives you a chance to start over,” Vince said. 

It’s not grammatically incorrect, but it isn’t necessary, either. Instead, say:

“I think this gives you a chance to start over,” Vince said.

Here’s another example:

He arranged to add his name to the multi-business sign that graced the front lawn at the office building, and bought paint to cover the walls of his new space.

In this instance, ‘that’ should be replaced with ‘which’ (…which graced the front lawn…) but it sounds even better when written like this:

He arranged to add his name to the multi-business sign gracing the front lawn at the office building, and bought paint to cover the walls of his new space.

When I did a search for ‘that’ in Three Empty Frames, I found 806 of them!!! I’m in the process of finding all those ‘thats’ and eliminating or replacing them.

47 thoughts on “What’s ‘that’ all about?

      1. I’m certain. Not being a trained writer, I simply write how I speak, generally. I’m sure I’d be amazed at how many times I use the words in a paragraph. And poor grammar and punctuation too. 😃

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Well I like conversational writing! You’d be surprised how many trained writers make glaring errors. I saw a journalist reporting on the hurricane spell the city “Huston” I mean come on!!!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I hear ya’. Kills me, the number of people on tv who use horrible grammar. And Houston? Dang. How awful. Did you see the Trumpster Fire walk in wearing that stupid fucking White hat he’s hawking? What an asshole. 😏

        Liked by 3 people

      1. Great idea. It drives me crazy when I see the wrong use of hear/here, and of course their/they’re/there and two/to/too – – then I find myself doing it too. Being human; it stinks sometimes, doesn’t it?! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess maybe I do. I’m not sure… I probably say it so often I don’t even realize I’m doing it. Oh… look at that! ‘Even’ — that’s another one I overuse. It pretty much never needs to be there…


  1. Hello . . .long time no see. I was just scrolling through some of my older posts and saw your name , and thought I’d pop across and say hello. And what a fabulous post I have arrived at. I definitely use ‘that’ too much I also have this habit of using ‘just’!

    Hope all is well with you xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there! Good to see you, too. All is well. We’ve moved to Ireland and are loving it! I’m still getting my feet under me and trying to get back into a writing routine. Hopefully soon. Hope all is well with you! 🙋‍♀️😘


  2. Thanks for pointing it out! I had actually noticed that “that” always sneaks in. I tried to avoid using “that” too often, but it happens. I’m not native in English, but I’ve been living and working in English environment for many decades. I use 4 languages for writing, reading, research, I’m doing translations of complex medical texts, as well as write poetry and content. My native language is Latvian, but I got my first MA in German language and literature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! I am in awe of your linguistic capabilities! Thank you for reading and commenting. I check my texts for ‘filler’ words like ‘that’ so as to minimize them. As you’re typing along, it’s somehow natural to add them when they aren’t needed. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I completely agree. We add these “filler” words automatically. It is great to do a thorough proofreading, but there is not enough time always when it comes to blog. Yet, it is the part people see first: what we have, what we create and what and how we write. Writing certainly includes our style, use of grammar, vocabulary, types of sentences, etc. Automated spell check does good job, but style can be sometimes totally off. I’m in rush right now with my show coming up.
    Have a wonderful day!

    Liked by 1 person

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