Kindle Forum banner
1 - 20 of 30 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
958 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I was searching the net for grammar usage around the word 'that'. Maybe someone can point me in the right direction.

Here's my dilemma. Which one is correct?

"...the fact that she had formally signed the letter..."
OR
"...the fact she had formally signed the letter..."

Thanks!
David
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
122 Posts
I know we're supposed to be taking 'that' out of our writing as much as possible, but to my ears the first sounds better. I don't think either of them is wrong.

Amanda
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,706 Posts
I struggle with this one too.

Found this guide online:

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/conjunctions.htm

Omitting That

The word that is used as a conjunction to connect a subordinate clause to a preceding verb. In this construction that is sometimes called the "expletive that." Indeed, the word is often omitted to good effect, but the very fact of easy omission causes some editors to take out the red pen and strike out the conjunction that wherever it appears. In the following sentences, we can happily omit the that (or keep it, depending on how the sentence sounds to us):

Isabel knew [that] she was about to be fired.
She definitely felt [that] her fellow employees hadn't supported her.
I hope [that] she doesn't blame me.

Sometimes omitting the that creates a break in the flow of a sentence, a break that can be adequately bridged with the use of a comma:

The problem is, that production in her department has dropped.
Remember, that we didn't have these problems before she started working here.

As a general rule, if the sentence feels just as good without the that, if no ambiguity results from its omission, if the sentence is more efficient or elegant without it, then we can safely omit the that. Theodore Bernstein lists three conditions in which we should maintain the conjunction that:

When a time element intervenes between the verb and the clause: "The boss said yesterday that production in this department was down fifty percent." (Notice the position of "yesterday.")
When the verb of the clause is long delayed: "Our annual report revealed that some losses sustained by this department in the third quarter of last year were worse than previously thought." (Notice the distance between the subject "losses" and its verb, "were.")
When a second that can clear up who said or did what: "The CEO said that Isabel's department was slacking off and that production dropped precipitously in the fourth quarter." (Did the CEO say that production dropped or was the drop a result of what he said about Isabel's department? The second that makes the sentence clear.)

Authority for this section: Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage by Theodore Bernstein. Gramercy Books: New York. 1999. p. 217. Examples our own.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,864 Posts
It's a matter of personal choice.

Stephen King is one, who when he's finished his manuscript, goes through it and removes many that's. The gatekeepers and publishers editors also have that predisposition, yet I fail to see how I could remove the "that" from this sentence.

I just wonder sometimes if it is a means to cut down on the word count to reduce print costs, rather than a grammatical thing, in the same way that words ending with, "ly, cliches and had" are disappearing from literature.
 
G

·
Decon said:
I just wonder sometimes if it is a means to cut down on the word count to reduce print costs, rather than a grammatical thing, in the same way that words ending with, "ly, cliches and had" are disappearing from literature.
No. There is barely a discernable difference between publishing a 90,000 word book and a 95,000 word book or a 100,000 word book.

The issue is not "that" or words that end in -ly. The issue is overuse of such words. Writers use them as crutches. When I was in high school, one of my teachers, Dave Price, would take off points for ever instance we used the word "very." Not because he hated the word, but because teenagers are LAZY and will use "very" as a descriptor instead of finding a more appropriate word. By taking that crutch away, it forced us to find other words to say what we wanted to say. It made us better writers because it forced us to think about what we were writing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,706 Posts
Speaking of grammar, I ran into this the other day while writing.  I wanted to write something like:

"That hot tub is supposed to seat ten, but there's fifteen of us here.  Do you think we can all fit?"

At first glance, this sounds correct, but if you look at the contraction "there's", something is off.  "There's" is a contraction of "there is" which is singular.  But in this situation, we have a plural.  If written without the contraction, it would be "but there are fifteen of us here."

So I searched through my text for instances of this, and changed all of the plural there's to there're.  But that didn't look right either.  So I did some research, and it seems there's disagreement on this issue.  Some claim that "there's" is ok to use with singular, and others claim that "there're" should be used.

I went with "there's".
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
337 Posts
Since, in verbal speech, there's is often misused, it's okay in dialogue.

It's also okay to use there's if a proceeds the plural noun:

There's a lot of grammar terms that are difficult to remember.

There are lots of grammar terms that are difficult to remember.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,362 Posts
A quick search of the Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed) shows the following:
The pronoun "that" may occasionally be omitted (but need not be) if the sentence is just as clear without it...
Example: "The book I have just finished is due back tomorrow; the others can wait."

As a book editor, I remove a lot of "thats" from my author's manuscripts.  In this case I'd leave it in.  If you remove it, your brain does a little stutter as you comprehend the meaning.  Either way is "correct," however.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,362 Posts
Shelagh said:
Since, in verbal speech, there's is often misused, it's okay in dialogue.
Definitely yes, if fiction. If nonfiction, however (especially YA nonfiction, my field), you tend to lean toward proper grammar. If you have a direct quote of someone using atrocious grammar, you might even want to paraphrase. Unless you're going for a local vernacular flavor in the book. It really depends on the specifics of the story.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,809 Posts
The first example definitely sounds better.

And it’s always good to remember, of course, that grammatically correct isn’t always going to be correct for your character. Most people don’t speak textbook correct English in real life, and if everything your characters say uses polished, perfect grammar they won’t sound real. 

Your example sounds fairly official, though, so the more formal example works better.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,362 Posts
Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
The issue is not "that" or words that end in -ly. The issue is overuse of such words. Writers use them as crutches. When I was in high school, one of my teachers, Dave Price, would take off points for ever instance we used the word "very." Not because he hated the word, but because teenagers are LAZY and will use "very" as a descriptor instead of finding a more appropriate word. By taking that crutch away, it forced us to find other words to say what we wanted to say. It made us better writers because it forced us to think about what we were writing.
My high school writing teacher did the very same thing. I once described a "big mountain" in a short story. He circled the phrase in red and gave me an "F" until I changed it. I revised it to "the pinnacle kissed the gates of heaven." He liked that a lot better. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,329 Posts
John Hamilton said:
A quick search of the Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed) shows the following:
The pronoun "that" may occasionally be omitted (but need not be) if the sentence is just as clear without it...
Example: "The book I have just finished is due back tomorrow; the others can wait."

As a book editor, I remove a lot of "thats" from my author's manuscripts. In this case I'd leave it in. If you remove it, your brain does a little stutter as you comprehend the meaning. Either way is "correct," however.
This. John Hamilton is spot on.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
338 Posts
Every writer has pet words and phrases which they overuse.

I will remove unnecessary occurrences of "that", but I don't go on witch hunts.

(However I did have one writer who used "hence" so often that it has become a pet peeve.)


See - I left a "that".
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,591 Posts
PeggyI said:
Every writer has pet words and phrases which they overuse.

I will remove unnecessary occurrences of "that", but I don't go on witch hunts.

(However I did have one writer who used "hence" so often that it has become a pet peeve.)

See - I left a "that".
Yeah, that's more or less my take. You'll never completely erase the word "that," just like never eliminating all "-ly" words. So it's a matter of strategic placing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,706 Posts
Words I search for and try to reduce:

so
very
that
although
yet
rather
just
nearly
even
sort of
amost
in spite of
perhaps
quite
for a moment
then
suddenly
began
started
knew
realized
seemed
appeared
 
1 - 20 of 30 Posts
Top