Writing Tips: Extraneous “That”

The writing I seek to produce is one trimmed of fat. Reading bulky writing is exhausting and has a tendency to ramble. It does pay to switch up sentence length however, so don’t misunderstand me there. One issue that irritates me is the word “that”. Let’s look at the first sentence of this paragraph: “The writing I seek to produce is one trimmed of fat”. In the process of writing an article talking about the qualifier “that,” I almost loaded this sentence with them. The sentence almost looked like this:

“The writing that I seek out to produce is one that is trimmed of fat.”

Doesn’t it just weigh in the brain like a corpse? There are sentences that make “that” mandatory but often the word can be omitted. Still not seeing the problem? Let’s look at it another way.

Every excess word, every way you force a qualifier into a sentence, you are further removing the reader from your meaning. Often the longer your sentence, the more garbled it becomes. “That” tacks on extra meaning to the end of a sentence. For example. “The person over there is the one that I found.” It seems like writers are trying to distance themselves from their emotions and meaning by augmenting it with something unnecessary.

Here’s the fix, and it’s simple. You don’t need to rework your sentences at all; control+F “that” and read the sentence first with and then without it. If the sentence reads coherently with it gone, then the word “that” is extraneous. Get rid of it and don’t look back.


Writing tips will officially be a part of my writing rotations in a given week. Let me know what you would like to see in terms of writing tips. I’m also looking for feedback on my weekly posts, so let me know if you have any thoughts to help me improve.

32 thoughts on “Writing Tips: Extraneous “That””

  1. I get the problem with “that.” But your example, “The person over there is the one that I found.” is a poor one. It could be fixed in a number of ways besides omitting “that.” You might write, “I found the person over there.” Or, because “over there” is ambiguous, how about, “I found that person.” Or even, “I found him.” Any of these might be preferable to “The person over there is that one I found,” which seems to be your suggested fix. And, of course, we normally don’t speak of people as “that” anyway. “The person whom I found” is more proper.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you so much for the tip! I think your blog is perfect and I enjoy reading your posts (although sometimes I forget to like them)! Maybe you could do tips on what you find helpful while you write and what you don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lol. That and they… can’t seem to rid myself completely of them… hehe.

    2nd draft is always either shortening, or just re-stating all-together. Another tip; semi-colons are good now and again, in place of the ‘that’. 😉 Depends on what you are writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks!!! Great tip and I appreciate you following me – I am absolutely going to try this. When I started writing, I was about 9 word doc pages of bloat. I tend to stay between 1 and 3 tops now, although I always write until I feel I’ve covered everything without repetition. Definitely an art.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tried to read your post of Happiness Happens on Word Press but received the following message;
    Nothing Found

    Sorry, but nothing matched your search criteria. Please try again with some different keywords.

    Search for: Happiness Happens
    I just thought I would let you know. :o)


  6. I’d love to read posts on structuring short stories. I’ve not written many and would appreciate reading more articles on structure.

    I also suffer from writing stories that are too skeletal and need some meat and fat added back to them for them to become an acceptable length when considering industry standards for particular genres.
    I would love to hear your take on fleshing out gaunt pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very helpful ideas !!
    Thanks significantly. It truly is a fellow feeling when i’m checking out a post like your own.
    I’m so thankful I discovered your blog, your writing is absolutely excellent. Not everybody creates for the exact same reason, but yours is actually impressive.
    Fantastic ideas and also great blog post overall!
    Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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