We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States. … Imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary, or news reports, that they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.
That’s not who we are. That’s not what America’s about.
Can you guess who said that?
Can you believe he said that?
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.