- On April 14, 2014
Avocados are good fats. But if you eat a lot of them, you won’t lose weight.
The same thing happens to your writing when you overuse the word that. A little of that is fine—and in some roles (that has many) it’s essential—but too much that and your copy gets fat.
Consider this sentence:
Editors say that the use of that is so widespread that it extinguishes hope for tight copy.
The sentence isn’t technically wrong, but it’s hard to read and a mouthful to say.
Now read this:
Editors say the use of that is so widespread it extinguishes hope for tight prose.
I think you’ll agree that the second version is tighter.
I think you’ll agree the second version is tighter.
When you write phrases like the study found that, employees said that, data predict that, the parties agreed that, drop that. Your copy will be lighter and tighter, and you’ll squeeze it into smaller spaces.
If only dropping weight were that easy.
In The Elements of Style, William Strunk and E.B. White say striking that is a “question of the ear.” The ear, they write, must decide when to omit that from a sentence and when to retain it. So read your copy aloud and put your ear to work.