My Most Hated Word in Writing

sayings-hard-writing-makes_15194-4As an editor, I have my most loved words and my most hated words. Today, I’ll talk about my most hated word. Just one of them, the one at the top of my list. Are you ready?


Yes – that. It’s overused. If you’re writing an article or a book, you can almost blindly delete every ‘that’ in it. Can you see where I could have just used it but didn’t?

“… you can almost blindly delete every ‘that’ that’s in it.”

Redundant. And it looks funny. Go through what you’ve written. Every time you come to the word ‘that’, say the sentence out loud without saying the ‘that’. Is it needed? Does it sound better without it? Delete it!

The best writing is tight. Use fewer words; use stronger nouns and verbs. Let’s look at some examples.

No: Mary started into the living room and then she hesitated. Who else was in there? Someone had come into the house and she didn’t know who it was. (Who wants to read that in a book? It’s wordy, and boring.)

Yes: Mary stopped in the doorway. Who was the stranger?


No: Bob said, “I’m going fishing in the morning if you want to come with me you’ll have to get up early and be ready.” And then he returned to the garage where he spent the next few hours organizing his tackle box.

Yes: “Hey! Wanna go fishing with me?”

Use better words – Not more words.

This entry was posted in Editing, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply