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James Duggan

Posts: 214
Registered: 02/08/14
Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 5:09 AM
 
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I'm currently carrying out a major re-write and edit of a novel which I feel is too long. I also want to improve the pace without losing the essence. I am noticing that I am injecting the word 'that' in places where it may not be necessary. This latter sentence may in fact be a perfect example of what I mean. Would the sentence lose anything if I had written?-
I am noticing I am injecting.....

Another example of what I am putting up for discussion might be this.

'He knew that it was time to go before he said something he might regret.'

Edited to- He knew it was time to go.....

Yet another might be.

'It wasn't the fact that he was afraid which made the blood drain from his face.'

Edited to - It wasn't the fact he was afraid....

I think you will get my drift and I wonder what others might think, not just about 'that', but also similar redundant words.
All constructive responses welcome.

Jim.
Justin Sampson

Posts: 59
Registered: 11/29/15
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 5:33 AM   in response to: James Duggan in response to: James Duggan
 
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if it can be taken out, take it out.
Joseph M Erhardt

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Registered: 12/21/15
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 5:34 AM   in response to: James Duggan in response to: James Duggan
 
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Generally you can tighten up the feel of the prose by eliminating unnecessary which's and that's.

However, sometimes I'll re-insert a "that" if the cadence of the sentence is better with it.

Because the topic is a matter of taste and does not affect the logic of the sentence, I try not to spend too much time on it. Well, I try. :)
writerbn

Posts: 5,229
Registered: 05/12/12
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 5:42 AM   in response to: James Duggan in response to: James Duggan
 
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Most of the time it can be removed, but in some cases, you need it for clarity.

Another filler word is "very". You can eliminate it almost all of the time. Pro Writing Aid (there's free online version) is good at finding these types of errors.
tanzzee

Posts: 141
Registered: 01/06/12
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 6:30 AM   in response to: James Duggan in response to: James Duggan
 
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As a long-time editor, there are a number of weak, vague words I suggest my clients strengthen their text by eliminating from their writing.

'That' is top of the list. Others are just, then, really, very, currently, totally, completely, absolutely, literally, definitely, certainly, probably, actually, basically, virtually, start, begin, began, begun, rather, quite, somewhat, somehow.

Also, many dialog tags can be removed, especially in longer conversations. 'Said Joe, Mary replied, Joe asked, Mary answered,' slow the pace of a conversation and tend to distract the reader. Establish the speakers at the beginning of the conversation, then take the dialog back and forth without the tags.

Of course, there are occasions when words from my list need to remain but eliminating most instances will make your work more professional and polished.
Wilai Lattimore

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Registered: 01/15/14
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 6:46 AM   in response to: tanzzee in response to: tanzzee
 
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That's a handy list to have when doing the first edit of a manuscript. But we shouldn't worry too much, because they are often essential to the flow.
tanzzee

Posts: 141
Registered: 01/06/12
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 6:54 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
 
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Wilai Lattimore wrote:
That's a handy list to have when doing the first edit of a manuscript. But we shouldn't worry too much, because they are often essential to the flow.

Yes, I agree. As I said in my post, "Of course, there are occasions when words from my list need to remain . . ."
Notjohn

Posts: 22,947
Registered: 02/27/13
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 8:45 AM   in response to: James Duggan in response to: James Duggan
 
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Generally speaking, it's best to know how to write before one takes up publishing as a hobby.

(Don't trust KDP to publish a print edition. Don't trust CreateSpace to publish an ebook.)

Good luck! -- NJ

Notjohn's Guide to E-Book & Print Formatting

The blog:
http://notjohnkdp.blogspot.com
Diana Persaud

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Registered: 10/07/13
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 8:58 AM   in response to: tanzzee in response to: tanzzee
 
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tanzzee wrote:
As a long-time editor, there are a number of weak, vague words I suggest my clients strengthen their text by eliminating from their writing.

'That' is top of the list. Others are just, then, really, very, currently, totally, completely, absolutely, literally, definitely, certainly, probably, actually, basically, virtually, start, begin, began, begun, rather, quite, somewhat, somehow.

Also, many dialog tags can be removed, especially in longer conversations. 'Said Joe, Mary replied, Joe asked, Mary answered,' slow the pace of a conversation and tend to distract the reader. Establish the speakers at the beginning of the conversation, then take the dialog back and forth without the tags.

Of course, there are occasions when words from my list need to remain but eliminating most instances will make your work more professional and polished.


Excellent advice.

All authors have crutch words they overuse. Sometimes when you figure out what those are, you introduce new words.

The words/phrases I look for are: and, and then, just, the.

I've gotten better with removing "just" but I still have too many of the other filler words.

In my last book, I had 'he wasn't sure if' in nearly every chapter. At least I caught it during the editing stage.
Mary Peebels

Posts: 421
Registered: 01/07/16
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 4:45 PM   in response to: James Duggan in response to: James Duggan
 
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I have a tendency to use 'that' more often than necessary. At some point when I'm doing edits, I do a word search of all instances of it. I'm always amazed by how many don't need to be there.
Mary Peebels

Posts: 421
Registered: 01/07/16
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 29, 2017 4:46 PM   in response to: tanzzee in response to: tanzzee
 
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tanzzee wrote:
As a long-time editor, there are a number of weak, vague words I suggest my clients strengthen their text by eliminating from their writing.

'That' is top of the list. Others are just, then, really, very, currently, totally, completely, absolutely, literally, definitely, certainly, probably, actually, basically, virtually, start, begin, began, begun, rather, quite, somewhat, somehow.

Also, many dialog tags can be removed, especially in longer conversations. 'Said Joe, Mary replied, Joe asked, Mary answered,' slow the pace of a conversation and tend to distract the reader. Establish the speakers at the beginning of the conversation, then take the dialog back and forth without the tags.

Of course, there are occasions when words from my list need to remain but eliminating most instances will make your work more professional and polished.


Thank you, great advice. I'm copying this to a file.
eelkat

Posts: 64
Registered: 11/21/11
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 30, 2017 12:26 AM   in response to: tanzzee in response to: tanzzee
 
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tanzzee wrote:
As a long-time editor, there are a number of weak, vague words I suggest my clients strengthen their text by eliminating from their writing.

'That' is top of the list. Others are just, then, really, very, currently, totally, completely, absolutely, literally, definitely, certainly, probably, actually, basically, virtually, start, begin, began, begun, rather, quite, somewhat, somehow.

Also, many dialog tags can be removed, especially in longer conversations. 'Said Joe, Mary replied, Joe asked, Mary answered,' slow the pace of a conversation and tend to distract the reader. Establish the speakers at the beginning of the conversation, then take the dialog back and forth without the tags.

Of course, there are occasions when words from my list need to remain but eliminating most instances will make your work more professional and polished.

Interestingly, I have found that selectively added these words can slow down the pace in places where you want the story to flow not so fast.

For example, I have one character in my series, who English is not his first language, and he talks slowly, carefully thinking out each word, because he's uncertain if he's speaking properly. Slow speech is difficult to show in writing. However, by added extra "that's, "very", etc to his dialogue, it forces the reader to slow down, thus creating the illusion that he (the character) is speaking slow.

Likewise you'd use these words when you wanted a character to seem vague, like he was trying to hide something, so he uses vague words when talking. So vague and passive words have their place, but need to be used selectively for effect, and not used throughout.

With that in mind, doing the opposite (removing those words) for the rest of the story, speeds up the flow of the action in the story.

So I agree, remove them usually, but keep them in in places selectively, where you want to purposely slow down the action. If they are never elsewhere in the story, then they have more impact in the places they are at.

James Duggan

Posts: 214
Registered: 02/08/14
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 31, 2017 5:30 AM   in response to: tanzzee in response to: tanzzee
 
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tanzzee wrote:
As a long-time editor, there are a number of weak, vague words I suggest my clients strengthen their text by eliminating from their writing.

'That' is top of the list. Others are just, then, really, very, currently, totally, completely, absolutely, literally, definitely, certainly, probably, actually, basically, virtually, start, begin, began, begun, rather, quite, somewhat, somehow.

Also, many dialog tags can be removed, especially in longer conversations. 'Said Joe, Mary replied, Joe asked, Mary answered,' slow the pace of a conversation and tend to distract the reader. Establish the speakers at the beginning of the conversation, then take the dialog back and forth without the tags.

Of course, there are occasions when words from my list need to remain but eliminating most instances will make your work more professional and polished.


Tanzzee. Thanks for 'that'. 🙂 Very useful. I'll keep it in mind for future reference.
I don't think I am guilty of overusing most of the other words in the list, with the possible exception of 'rather'. I'll be watching out for that in future.
Your comments regarding the use of tags in speech are also worth remembering. I've only recently spotted that in my writing and am trying to put it into practice.
Thanks again.

Jim.
James Duggan

Posts: 214
Registered: 02/08/14
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 31, 2017 5:40 AM   in response to: Notjohn in response to: Notjohn
 
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Notjohn wrote:
Generally speaking, it's best to know how to write before one takes up publishing as a hobby.

(Don't trust KDP to publish a print edition. Don't trust CreateSpace to publish an ebook.)

Good luck! -- NJ

Notjohn's Guide to E-Book & Print Formatting

The blog: http://notjohnkdp.blogspot.com


Notjohn. I've read most of your posts over the past three years and generally speaking I don't have a problem with them. In fact I have for the most part found them useful. However, this one has left me confused.
What exactly is it you are trying to say relevant to the question. Explain please.

Jim.
James Duggan

Posts: 214
Registered: 02/08/14
Re: Use of the word 'that'.
Posted: Oct 31, 2017 5:57 AM   in response to: Mary Peebels in response to: Mary Peebels
 
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Mary Peebels wrote:
I have a tendency to use 'that' more often than necessary. At some point when I'm doing edits, I do a word search of all instances of it. I'm always amazed by how many don't need to be there.

Mary. Interesting, thank you.
I use 'Word' for all my writing because I am comfortable with it and It never gives me any trouble. It does the job.
However, I haven't yet come across the facility for searching for particular words in a document. Can you help this old fella out and point me in the right direction?
I'd appreciate it.

Jim.
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