One of the things that hit a nerve when I wrote that most popular post of mine on editing (that’s One word at a time), was the culling of certain redundant words, such as really, rather, just, quite, very, oh, so, well and suddenly. That came to mind when I realised the other day, on reading Amanda Bumgarner’s excellent post on eliminating word overuse, that I’d left one important word off that list. Yes, you guessed it – the word… that.
When you turn your mental volume dial up on that little word, that’s when it starts to jump out at you, from every line and every paragraph.
That is one of those words that stutters into our sentences without our even noticing. How insidiously it sneaks in and takes up residence, unloved and unwanted. I think that if I counted up the number of times that that appeared in my novel, that that would be as revealing as it would be painful. That, I know, is something that I could not bear to do, and that’s an end of it.
So that’s the point that I want to make, that that is one of those words that is almost always surplus to requirements – and that should be enough to encourage you to consign that word to the literary equivalent of the cutting room floor.
And that’s all I’ll be saying on that matter.