Put THAT Thing Away! - Writer's Digest

Put THAT Thing Away!

Publish date:

Be careful; it's easy to do. That is, it's easy to write in a way that overuses that word "that." Or in other words, it's easy to overuse the word "that."

Look: I used to be a major offender myself. Of all places, a techincal writing course helped me improve my "that" problem across the board, not to mention turn me into a list consistency freak.

Here's a sample of how "that" can slow down a poem in a bad way:

The man ran miles and miles
for that woman that could've
done so much for him so that
he wasn't sure what he'd do
now that he spent his nights
alone listening to that same
old Louis Armstrong record
playing that "Mack the Knife"

It's funny how once you get started on "that" word "that," it's often hard to stop. In line 2, "that" even took the place of what should be a "who." "That" is a very typical "that" problem, in fact. With a little cleaning, this could read as:

The man ran miles and miles
for the woman who could've
done so much for him he
wasn't sure what he'd do
now that he spent his nights
alone listening to the same
old Louis Armstrong record
playing "Mack the Knife."

This little piece went from 6 uses of "that" to 1 through some simple clean up. While this piece is just an example and not meant to win any awards for great writing, it is definitely tighter for doing a "that" scan.

So be on the lookout for "that," because it could improve your writing just like "that." (Oh jeez, I'm coming up with some horrible "that" jokes, eh?)




Bearing vs. Baring vs. Barring (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use bearing vs. baring vs. barring on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


15 Things a Writer Should Never Do

Former Writer's Digest managing editor Zachary Petit shares his list of 15 things a writer should never do, based on interviews with successful authors as well as his own occasional literary forays and flails.


Evie Green: Imaginary Friends and Allowing Change

Author Evie Green explains why she was surprised to end writing a horror novel and how she learned to trust the editorial process.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: The 3 Prime Rules of Horror Writing, Contest Deadlines, and More!

Welcome to the first installment of a new series! There's always so much happening in the Writer's Digest universe that even staff members have trouble keeping up. So we're going to start collecting what's on the horizon to make it easier for everyone to know what's happening and when.


Lenora Bell: When Fairy Tales Meet Reality TV

Bestselling historical romance author Lenora Bell discusses researching, avoiding info-dumps while still charming readers, and how her latest book was inspired by her life.


Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

Take Two: Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

No one wants to break the bank to learn how to write a screenplay. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares practical tips on saving money on the pursuit of a screenwriting career.


10 Epic Quotes From Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Here are 10 epic quotes from Watership Down, by Richard Adams. The story of a group of rabbits who escape an impending danger to find a new home, Watership Down is filled with moments of survival, faith, friendship, fear, and hope.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Quintilla Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the quintilla.