Tuesday’s Tutor: Four First Steps in Editing – “That” problem

EASY AS A, B, C . . . from BB

So you’ve finished a short story.  Or an article.  Or a chapter in your book—you may have completed a novel for the National Novel Writing Month.  Or you’ve written a poem.  You think you’re ready to edit, but where to start?

The first 4 things I encourage my adult, college, or high school students to do:

A.  Put that to the four-part test
B.  Watch out for your faves
C.  Eliminate weak subj/v combos
D.  Use timeline words only as absolutely necessary

To do your Four Part “that” test, begin by utilizing the “Search” button for the word that.  Surprised at how many there are?  One student I encouraged to do this found he’d used “that” 60 to 90 times in 30 pages, averaging 2-3 per page..  When he put them to the four-part test, he found only 4 were necessary. 

A.  Four-Part That Test

1.  Read the sentence aloud without that—if it’s still clear, makes sense, cut that
2.  If the sentence refers to a person, always use who/whose instead of that
3.  If the sentence refers to a thing, substitute which for that in some cases
4.  If none of the above apply, you need that—leave it in

Not sure whether you need to go to so much work?  Did you really count how many times you used that?  If you have more than about four or five in 2 or 3 pages, put them to the test (and, if they’re so weak, why have them at all?)

In the Jan. 22nd “Tuesday’s Tutor,” I’ll talk about detecting your troublesome “favorite” words, or “Faves” 

BIO: Brenda Bensch, M.A., is a teacher of many years’ experience, a writer, and a freelance editor.  After multiple decades teaching in Utah’s university, college, high school and community ed. classrooms (English, fiction and non-fiction writing, reading, study skills, drama, humanities, debate, math, and others), she invites you to “Ask The Teacher” at http://BenschWensch.wordpress.com 

See you day-after-tomorrow for Thursday’s 13



Filed under Teacher

5 responses to “Tuesday’s Tutor: Four First Steps in Editing – “That” problem

  1. You see, Brenda…this is why we love you. (Well…ONE reason…:0)

  2. THAT’s incredibly helpful! Thanks Brenda!

  3. benschwensch

    Why, garsh ‘n’ golly—thanks for the “luv ya,” Amy. And, Maren, SO glad “THAT” helps!

  4. I don’t have much trouble with “that;” I rarely use it. But I bet I have some “faves” I need to pin down. Looking forward to your next installment!

  5. Thanks, Diann! These four “installments” will probably take care of a large percentage of most writers’ problems!

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