That Vs Which: Self Editing Tip and Reason Number 501 Why it is taking so long to finish my next novel

I do not blog daily – my hat’s off to those that do – but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy enough to receive The Writer’s Daily Companion by Amy Peters as a gift several months ago. It’s like having my own daily prompt generator without the distraction that is the internet.

Somedays it’s a story prompt. Other days it is more of a workbook for improving your writing. For example, one of the Daily Companion’s lessons of the day was the difference between that and which.

It’s been a while since I published my first novel, An Uncertain Faith, and though I don’t obsess over the reviews nearly as much as I once did, I have never forgotten one review suggesting my writing could be removed if I didn’t use quite so many ‘thats.’

Imagine that.

To be clear, I was very appreciative of that particular feedback. Until I read that review, I had no idea that I said and wrote quite so many thats. Of course, now that it’s been pointed out to my attention I see that the reviewer might have a point. Then again, when you are writing books that are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words, it should be understood that a few words might just be repeated.

I also know my other half will forevermore lovingly point out future overuses of the word that – much to my dismay and embarrassment. (To be fair – I probably have it coming)

The tip is to remove the word that from a sentence. If it doesn’t make sense, the ‘that’ stays in. If it does – leave it out.

To be clear, I was very appreciative of particular feedback. This sentence doesn’t work. Therefore – hurray! I get to leave the ‘that’ in there.

Therefore, if I follow my own tip, I should edit my paragraph as follows:

To be clear, I was very appreciative of that particular feedback. Until I read that review, I had no idea I said and wrote quite so many thats. Of course, now it’s been pointed out to my attention I see the reviewer might have a point. Then again, when you are writing books that are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words, it should be understood a few words might just be repeated.

It’s better, but the next thing to obsess over is whether the word ‘which’ might be better.

That is a restrictive clause, while Which is an unrestrictive clause.

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For non-English majors like myself, this means asking yourself if the sentence would still is accurate if you were to cut out any text following either qualifying word.

for example, if I cut out the “that are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words,” the last sentence of my paragraph would read like this:

Then again, when you are writing books, it should be understood a few words might just be repeated.

The statement is truthful and accurate. Therefore, my edited paragraph is:

To be clear, I was very appreciative of that particular feedback. Until I read that review, I had no idea I said and wrote quite so many thats. Of course, now it’s been pointed out to my attention I see the reviewer might have a point. Then again, when you are writing books, which are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words, it should be understood a few words might just be repeated.

The downside of this tip is I have to go through my work in progress with a fine-toothed comb, in order to tighten my writing before I send it off to the professional editor. This has been no quick and easy process. But I have to say the reviewer who first gave me the tip has a point (and thank you to all who have ever shared a review) and I look forward to being on the other side of edits soon.

And that’s all I am going to say about that.

 

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15 thoughts on “That Vs Which: Self Editing Tip and Reason Number 501 Why it is taking so long to finish my next novel

  1. I’m a “that” addict, Allie, and I have to do exactly what you are doing… with every single one of my books. I search each “that” and run it through the mill to determine if it’s needed and appropriate. I can’t seem to unhook myself from THAT word. So you aren’t alone. And great tip. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My first boss at the company I work for now was very anti-“that” and really drilled it into me. I had to admit, he was right – most times it’s an extraneous word that adds nothing to a sentence, so I am very selective in my use. And one of my biggest editing pet peeves is people using “which” when they should actually be using “that.” I actually sent out a long email once to my team explaining in great detail when you should (and should not) use each word.

    Liked by 1 person

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