Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Use of the word "That"

So, not only have I been remiss in blogging here, but I sort of dropped off the face of Absolute Write as well. That's all right, they probably don't miss me. Not because I've made myself a nuisance there; more because I haven't made a name for myself there yet either. No big.

But, one thing I keep in mind when I write, or think about writing or revising, is a thing that the Absolute Write-rs really try to hammer home when people are all "LOL, I have a first draft I just finished, will somebody read it for me?" is a very simple trick, really: look for instances in which you use the word "that". You can probably remove them safely, leaving the meanings of your sentences intact.

I'd never heard this before, and it boggled and intrigued me. I of course went to the anthology which I'm editing and hit "Find", and typed "that". Then I read every sentence which continued the word "that", and damn if they weren't right. Most of them, I could remove. Some I left intact, because really, that's how people talk. They say "that" all the time, sometimes twice in a row. I kind of like a colloquial voice, depending. It's once reason I enjoyed Stephen King for as long as I did, I think; the writing is very easy to read, which might draw you in.

I haven't tried counting the "that"s in published books I have laying around. I wonder if there will be fewer in fiction versus non fiction? Fewer in a classic versus a contemporary work? It's an interesting thing to have brought to your attention.

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