Terrible Tips Tuesday: Subliminal Editing
Last weekend I was reading the rough draft of this story so I could make some edits and then send it out to
guinea pigs beta readers. I’d already read through it a couple times before to fix a lot of the continuity problems and so forth, so this was mostly just to catch typos or other glitches. You want to know the biggest problem though: THAT.
I mean the actual word, that. I have this annoying habit of putting extra “that”‘s in places where they aren’t really necessary. For instance I’ll have a sentence like:
He shoved the papers off the chair so that he could sit down.
There isn’t anything really wrong with that sentence, is there? But if you think about it, you could also say:
He shoved the papers off the chair so he could sit down.
See what I mean? You don’t really need “that” in the sentence for it to read fine. Maybe some grammar snob can tell me which (if any) is more correct, but the second reads all right and it has one less word.
Does that matter? Not all the time. Still, when I notice the extra “that”‘s then I start to see them all over the place. I have no idea how many I wound up deleting over the weekend. A hundred? Maybe a bit less.
Another word I unconsciously use a lot: JUST. And not like “it’s a just system.” More like:
Just put that on that table.
There’s just one more thing we need to do.
In either case, I don’t really need the “just” in it. Both sentences read fine without the word in there. I
just can’t stop myself so that I wind up doing it all the time. Maybe you’ve got your own bugaboos you find when editing. The point is there’s a lot worse things than adverbs out there.