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Wilai Lattimore

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Registered: 01/15/14
Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 4:29 AM
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This is a sentence I have just written and I'd like the forums opinion. Is the 'that' necessary, or not?

He couldn't hit me, because he was holding the bowl in one hand and the spoon in the other, but I could tell by his expression that he would have, if his hands were free.
Eugene Moynihan

Posts: 8
Registered: 10/12/17
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 4:37 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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No it's not needed, neither is the comma before 'because' and 'if'.
You can also change 'would have' to 'would've'
Gary O'Riley

Posts: 937
Registered: 09/24/12
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 4:42 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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Wilai Lattimore wrote:
This is a sentence I have just written and I'd like the forums opinion. Is the 'that' necessary, or not?

He couldn't hit me, because he was holding the bowl in one hand and the spoon in the other, but I could tell by his expression that he would have, if his hands were free.


Myself I would have writen:

"He couldn't hit me, because he was holding the bowl in one hand and the spoon in the other, but I could tell by the look on his face, he wanted to strike me."

I find it best to, where possible, avoid using "that" and "which" and try to arrange sentences without them.

I'm sure others will now shoot me down!

BTW, an editor posting on the other thread also suggests avoiding "which" and "that" along with a list of other words.

Edited by: Gary O'Riley on Nov 5, 2017 4:45 AM
Joseph M Erhardt

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Registered: 12/21/15
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 4:48 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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He couldn't hit me, because he was holding the bowl in one hand and the spoon in the other, but I could tell by his expression that he would have, if his hands were free.

This is supposed to be a tense situation, so my take is that the sentence runs too long. My suggestion would be this:

He couldn't hit me because he was holding the bowl in one hand and the spoon in the other. But I could tell by the look on his face that he would have, if his hands were free.

Something like that.

Generally, tend to avoid latinates ("expression") in favor of simpler words (often Anglo-Saxon). Latinates tend to slow the narrative (and there -are- times you use them
for just that purpose).
writerbn

Posts: 5,252
Registered: 05/12/12
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 5:05 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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I agree with Joseph about the run-on sentence. Short, choppy sentences--even fragments--work better in this situation to underscore the tension.

Gary's solution eliminates "that" but introduces a comma splice. My own take on all this prohibition of certain words is that it's BS: If you need to use a word, use it, as long as it's not overdone. (And I say that as someone who makes a living partly as an editor.)

Edit to clarify: My statement above refers to fiction, where rhythm and flow is more important than mechanical adherence to rules. If you were writing a manuscript for an academic journal, that's another story.

Edited by: writerbn on Nov 5, 2017 5:07 AM
Wilai Lattimore

Posts: 459
Registered: 01/15/14
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 5:06 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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Does anyone agree with Eugene that the commas aren't necessary and the 'would have' should 'be abbreviated? I don't.

And the length? When I read it back it seems to flow nicely?
Mrs Julia Evans

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Registered: 05/22/16
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 5:19 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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Wilai Lattimore wrote:
Does anyone agree with Eugene that the commas aren't necessary and the 'would have' should 'be abbreviated? I don't.
And the length? When I read it back it seems to flow nicely?

I prefer Joseph's version, but to answer your question, I'd ditch the first comma, but keep it as 'would have'.

You're trying to make the point 'he would've hit you' if he could have, but as it comes before the comma, abbreviating it to 'would've' takes away the impact of the threatened violence.

Just my thoughts. J
Wilai Lattimore

Posts: 459
Registered: 01/15/14
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 5:21 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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Thanks everyone. Your feedback is most appreciated.
Gary O'Riley

Posts: 937
Registered: 09/24/12
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 5:23 AM   in response to: Joseph M Erhardt in response to: Joseph M Erhardt
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"He couldn't hit me because he was holding the bowl in one hand and the spoon in the other. But I could tell by the look on his face that he would have, if his hands were free. So he put the bowl and the spoon down and then hit me!!!"
chris

Posts: 58
Registered: 09/26/14
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 5:28 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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I would split it into two sentences. But that's just me.

As for the use of the word 'that' -- Orwell used it, and so can you. :-)
Wilai Lattimore

Posts: 459
Registered: 01/15/14
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 5:32 AM   in response to: Gary O'Riley in response to: Gary O'Riley
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This is the complete paragraph.

He couldn't hit me, because he was holding the bowl in one hand and the spoon in the other, but I could tell by his expression that he would have, if his hands were free. His eyes narrowed as he slipped the spoon in my mouth. The moment he withdrew it, he whacked me on the head with it!
Notjohn

Posts: 23,018
Registered: 02/27/13
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 5:57 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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First learn to write. Only then learn to publish.

(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
Gary O'Riley

Posts: 937
Registered: 09/24/12
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 6:21 AM   in response to: Notjohn in response to: Notjohn
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N J, you're lucky OP doesn't hit you on the head with a spoon!
Wilai Lattimore

Posts: 459
Registered: 01/15/14
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 6:29 AM   in response to: Gary O'Riley in response to: Gary O'Riley
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Yes, I feel particularly insulted by NJ's comment. Especially as his sole purpose to visit this forum is to line his pockets rather than give helpful suggestions.
Brad the wronger

Posts: 172
Registered: 07/13/17
Re: Continuing the 'that' question
Posted: Nov 5, 2017 7:21 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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Consider human nature. If he was so enraged that he would hit you if his hands were empty, he would use whatever in his hands as a weapon. I think he'd fling the bowl at you, slam the spoon into the sink, and stomp from the room, screaming over his shoulder all along.

Otherwise, what Joseph said about having shorter sentences during tense moments. The other problem is you've let the reader off the hook at the binning of the sentence, telling them you wouldn't be hit. Let them think you're at risk for as long as possible.

His hands trembled holding the bowl and spoon. He'd never looked so close to violence.

You certainly don't need if his hands were free since you indicated that by saying He couldn't hit me, because he was holding the bowl in one hand and the spoon in the other The reader already knows his hands weren't free.
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