Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"THAT" word

* more from the land of editorainia today....

hey, I'm going through it, so why not drag a few friends, right?

This past week made me take some serious time with "that" word.


no...nothing naughty (I write squeaky clean middle grade, remember?)


I'm talking about the actual word that.


I overuse it and misuse it and abuse it terribly (or, so I am learning)

Let me give you some examples from my novel we're editing:

before:


they knew that curiosity would bring people out...


and


trying to sound friendly despite the wet heat that was streaming down her back of her neck


now take 'that' out for our after versions:


they knew curiosity would bring people out

and

trying to sound friendly despite the wet heat streaming down the back of her neck

better, right?
I had no idea I was even doing this. In fact, if you asked me, I would swear I was not because the after lines seem so obvious.

You may not realize it either!


Consider taking your next writing session and use the "find" function on word. Type in "that" and then look at each one and ask if it can be removed to clean up the manuscript.


Question:
Did you know THAT this can be a problem spot for writers? hehehe... I'm cracking myself up here. Lame humor, I know ... but it's all I got
:D

31 comments:

Tere Kirkland said...

Yup. THAT is the first thing to go when I do my 2nd draft. ;)

Great reminder, Tess!

Martin Willoughby said...

Never considered th....this before. Th...It means I owe you thanks.

Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, I do that all the time. Especially in blog posts!

Mary Campbell said...

Oh yes- the dreaded that. I do it too, but I really notice when other writers do it. I'm trying to avoid it whenever possible, but it creeps in there anyway.

Ann Best said...

Good examples. I've learned over the years to avoid using them in my own writing, and when I read a book I mentally edit them out (they're annoying).

Mary Aalgaard said...

That is interesting. I'll take note of that!

Sarah said...

I don't have THAT problem, but I certainly have others. I've noticed I'm horribly aware of what my characters are looking at: if one looks away, or holds another's gaze, or...

It's good in moderation, but I need to find other ways of showing what's going on with my characters.

Like the line about the wet heat streaming down her back, by the way!

Michelle said...

I have that problem too! I usually catch it in the second draft.

lotusgirl said...

Nice reminder. I have a problem with it, too. I should do the search for "that" soon.

Jen said...

Those little stinkers always manage to sneak in! At least we are aware THAT they are pains!

Angie said...

Great idea. I'm going to do that. ;) I have other problem words too, like "probably."

Stephanie said...

Yep...it's on my list of no no words!! But I have to say, I use it far less than I used to! Kudos for me!! LOL!! After going through the editing process with my editor at Lyrical Press, I think my writing has definitely gotten better! My first draft contains far less no no words!

Alissa said...

I probably do this too. I'm off to go search for THATs.

Scott said...

Yes, I knew 'that' word could be a problem and 'that' I used the word quite often. Ha!

When I was in the beginning stages of word elimination, 'that' was one of the first words I searched for thanks to a list of words to eliminate I found on a blog somewhere. I'm not sure where, but if I find the list I'll send it to you.

Now that I said that I think that I'll get back to work! Ha!

S

Tess said...

oh you clever, clever writerly friends... you crack me up! thanks for taking the time on this busy week to stop by and giggle w/ me :D

Carolyn V. said...

I had a friend point out to me that I use that too much. That stinkin' word! =)

Lydia Kang said...

That drives me crazy sometimes. I hate that. No, hate is a strong word for that. I try not to use that too much.
:)

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

That is so true. That that is so NOt That!

Kathryn said...

Excellent advice. There are so many unneeded words that we never notice until someone points out how much better our work would read otherwise!

Kelly H-Y said...

Great reminder!! Good luck with the edits! Love your new pic ... is that a little frog on your hand?!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Susan first pointed out my "that" problem several years ago. My first drafts are full of them, but then I reread each sentence without a that and see if it can stand without it without changing the meaning.

For a long time I had a post it with the word "that" on it sticking on the wall in my writing space. :)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Yes, I have that same problem! I think I've done the find and replace already on my WiP, but maybe I'll do it again just to be sure!!

Amy

ali said...

Ha! This is one of my "pet" words too! I always have to go back just to look for THAT, lol. And now I notice it in books I read, automatically noting how much tighter sentences would be if they'd just nuked their extraneous THAT's.

Your book's gonna ROCK when you're done with it!

Jennifer Walkup said...

I do it too. It is so annoying how it sneaks in there so easily.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

And here I though it was just me with this that problem. It's kind of nice to read that I'm not alone. ; )

Jill Kemerer said...

Oh yeah! I do "that" too. And sometimes I'll take the word out and the sentence will no longer make sense. So much fun, sigh.

Have a great weekend!

Amy Holder said...

I do the same thing with THAT and OF. I didn't even realize it either until the copy editing stage.

I love how you use various text colors. It really makes your posts come to life! :)

Sarah Skilton said...

"That" is absolutely my worst overused word. I'm constantly having to take them out, too!

Elana Johnson said...

Yeah, okay, I'm a that abuser too. So sue me. Ha!

Susan Fields said...

Excellent advice as always, Tess! I'm aware of overusing "that", but I still do it more than I should. I need to use the "Find" function to de-that my ms very soon!

Terresa said...

An excellent post, per usual on your blog! ;)

I never thought of "that" before...tee hee hee.