Sunday, 2 January 2011

She knew that she was a Happy Thatter

The more that you write the more that you realise that you have some little quirks. I like that. Hmmm. Perhaps I should rephrase that. The more I write the more I realise I have some little quirks. Yes, I'm a happy thatter. Give me an opportunity and I'll give it a that. I don't mean to drop in thats here, there and everywhere but, like sufferers from Tourette's, I can't help myself. That is literally my problem.

Of course, none of my thats are, strictly speaking, wrong. They make grammatical sense. They are correct English. But they clutter up my prose like nick-nacks on a Victorian mantelpiece. The speech rhythms are clunkier. Take the Anthony Trollope title He Knew He Was Right. How much more stylish that He Knew That He Was Right. One version works, the other doesn't and all that divides them is an innocent little that.

Most documents I write I have to run a speedy search and destroy mission for superfluous thats using the Global Edit facility. It takes ages, but I'm happier as a result, and my prose reads just that little bit more easily. (That one passed the that test.) One of my writing friends is fine on thats. Her problem is adverbs. Another has a fondness for exclamation marks. We all have our writing problems. I know I am a Happy Thatter. What's yours?

10 comments:

badas2010 said...

Thats, adverbs, exclamation marks, semi-colons; I've had the lot. I'm now much more careful and I hope I use them all as sparingly as possible.
My one golden rule is "Read what you've written, and if it doesn't read smoothly, change it 'til it does" and that seems to take care of the problem.

Sarah Duncan said...

I'd add Read Aloud to your golden rule - it's amazing how things that seem to work in your head don't when you have to say them.

womagwriter said...

I'm a thougher. Though I try to leave the word out, it keeps creeping back in. I try to avoid using it, though. Used to be a quiter and an almoster though I have almost cured myself of those weakening words.

Liz Fielding said...

With me it's "just", although "that" gets a look in, too.

Fiona Faith Maddock said...

'That' and exclamation marks. Sarah, you wrote a post about exclamation marks a while ago and I'm ashamed to say I found 500 in my m/s (resist temptation to end sentence here with exclamation mark). I've cut them down to five. I find your advice so helpful. I feel such a rookie but I am getting there. Repetition of my favourite words and even sentences is a bad habit of mine. One project for this year is to increase my vocabulary and get out of the rut of well-loved familiar phrases.

Sarah Duncan said...

500 !!!!! Glad you got them down to 5.

I'm enjoying hearing about everyone else's little habits. I do just a bit, but don't think I'm a thougher. The last couple of books I've had a bout of ellipsis overload which I'm trying to cut down on...

Jim Murdoch said...

I've just gone through my WIP and reduced the 741 instances of 'that' to a mere 516.

Sarah Duncan said...

That sounds a good cull Jim. Global edit is such a useful tool for this.

Gail Crane said...

I'm a "thatter", too.

Er, is that "that" that sneaked in after stylish supposed to be a "than" by any chance?

Sarah Duncan said...

Arggh - you see, they sneak in everywhere! Can't help it *hangs head in shame*