Monday, October 16, 2006

Thataholics' Anonymous

My friend Mary Jo helped me out today and edited a writing project for me. Knowing I use the word "that" much too often, I was careful to go through the 20-page manuscript and removed all unnecessary "thats." Or, so I thought. Mary Jo deleted 18 more.

I've entered a 12-step program for "that" addiction.

Did you notice I didn't say, "Knowing THAT I use the word" or "Did you notice THAT I didn't say"? I'm getting better. I'm working the program.

The key is to stay clear of other thataholics. I was doing pretty well getting the "thats" out of my writing, having gone cold turkey, but then I read an article in Writers' Digest about how it's all wrong to take out the thats. The author stated that that is a much needed word for clear writing. He urged other writers to get the thats back in their writing.

It was all too tempting, I bellied up next to the author at the "that" bar and went on a nasty binge. It was ugly, but I've managed to pull myself out of the abyss.

I still have a long way to go, but with friends like Mary Jo, I can do it. I can beat the thats!


Anonymous said...

THAT is a problem, isn't it.

I remember reading somewheres (in a writer's magazine perhaps) to avoid using "that" too many times.

Then I go and read a grand piece of writing by a writer I love and see the word "that" used excessively.

And I scratch my head.

There are just no hard and fast rules in editing. THAT's the problem.

Maureen said...

Cay, your "thats" were necessary. Mary Jo probably left in as many "thats" as she removed.

Now, you could have written:
I remember reading THAT we should avoid using . . .

Then I go and read a grand piece of writing THAT used excessive . . .

But, you're a good writer and avoided the evil side of that -- using only the good side of that.

So, that's that :-)

Nancy C. Brown said...

I have thataholism, too. In fact, part of my self-editing process is to search and find "that" and see if they are really necessary. I usually can eliminate a ton of them.

Alice Gunther said...

LOL, I do THAT too! So glad THAT I am in such fine company!

Anonymous said...

In my high school AP English class, THAT was a forbidden word. We were required to re-write sentences to avoid THAT word. It can be done!

Anonymous said...

also verboten: basically

the use of the term is overwhelmingly prevalent here in the technical realm. drives me bonkers!