By: Mikayla S. Moss
Advanced Expository class was where it all started.
For those of you who haven’t reached a collegiate level writing class, Beware. It’s fun, but often times painful. For example, one of the best parts of the classes is writing for a grade, and the hardest part is forcing yourself to release your writing (a.k.a. your child) to somebody so they can poke and prod at it. It’s called critiques. In my Advanced Expository class, I had to relinquish my nonfiction story to an Education major who literally scribbled all over my “supposed” masterpiece. She then proceeded to read some of my badly structured sentences aloud:
We loved that house and all that it had to offer.
The house had that castle feel that could make anyone cry that came by.
I can’t believe that that had happened.
And these were just a few of my sentences. Did you notice the problem? The entire story was littered with “that’s” and I didn’t notice until this Ed major brought it out. She sent the paper back to me to revise, and once I made the needed corrections I went back to my other pieces, which were also filled with “that’s.” The moral of the story is that my peer’s attention to detail saved me from the “that” monster which had been ruining my writing. And the truth is I still use it, for obvious reasons.
I think the main reason we like the word “that” is because it is a way to connect our thoughts. Have you ever noticed people who in presentations like to use the words “like,” “um,” and “you know?” Those words aren’t necessary to the formation of the sentence, but it helps the person connect their thoughts. I’m not going to go into clauses, but “that” is (sometimes) a clear indicator of a clause, or a word used to connect a sentence. And in a way, “that” helps our brain flow with our thoughts. If that’s the way you are, it’s okay. Just make sure to Edit and Cut the unnecessary “that,” because nobody digs redundancy. If “that” appears in your writing a million times without purpose, your reader will catch on and question your mad writing skills.
The Power of the “Which”
No, I’m not talking about a literal spooky witch, but the word “which.” In some cases, “that” is the perfect word and shouldn’t be replaced, but while reading some of my “that” sentences I realized the word “which” sounded so much better. For example:
I went to a table that looked pink, but was actually red.
I went to the table which looked pink, but was actually red.
These sentences are not showing a huge difference and both of them are grammatically correct and can work. But notice “that” and “which’ are functioning just about the same, so mix it up and switch them out sometimes.
The main thing you should remember if you’re struggling with the “that” is to read your sentence aloud. If the sentence sounds alright without it, remove it. As writers, we have a tendency to be wordy. The main problem with “that” is it oftentimes ruins your precision. And as a writer, unless needed, always be precise, concise, and clear.