If you’re a writer or editor, the word that can sometimes be a landmine in an otherwise harmless stroll through some well-crafted copy.
As you write or edit, always have as an axiom: Tighten up the copy.
It is my hypothesis that the verbose narrative—primarily a product of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—resulted from the common practice of the time of paying authors by the word. To support my hypothesis I present Exhibit A: Charles Dickens. It is a fact that Dickens was paid by the word (for a considerable portion of his career, if not entirely throughout), and it helps to explain why he would use several sheets of parchment and manifold bottles of ink just to describe a teapot.
The covers of this book are too far apart.
Tightening up copy entails a variety of approaches, so I offer here one minor but important technique you can use to keep your manuscripts a little bit more succinct.
This is something helpful that I found regarding the use of that:
The word that can be omitted in standard English where it introduces a subordinate clause, as in : she said (that) she was satisfied. That can also be dropped in a relative clause where it is the object of the clause, as in : the book (that) I’ve just written. That, however, is obligatory when it is the subject of the relative clause, as in : the company that employs Jack.
Here’s an amusing—and grammatically correct—use of that five times in a row in a single coherent sentence: He said that that that that that writer used should really have been a which.
And that’s all I have to say about that.