My writing syntax changed forever during my freshman year of high school. My teacher taught numerous lessons remaining with me today as I write for personal and professional reasons. The largest of these lessons regards “that.” Yes, the word – “that.”
Friends who’ve asked me to proof their papers, resumes, and cover letters have heard the “that lesson,” I’ve questioned editors actually adding in “that” into draft works, and I’ve even offered the information, unsolicited, to at least one person. I cannot remember why exactly, but I’m guessing I had too much “that.”
For those inquiring, my teacher typically gave us word limit challenges to encourage succinct writing. Relay the information – still appealing and grammatically correct – in as few words as possible. One hint she gave was anytime we wrote “that,” re-read the sentence, removing the word. Often the sentence makes perfect sense without “that.” For example:
She told us
that she was hungry.
The researchers think
that the method will work.
Too many red circles and x’s helped the lesson stick. It just so happens one of my favorite writing blogs also recently discussed proper uses of “that,” as well.
Pay attention to “that.”