Writing Alternatives to Too Much of That


There are certain words that, when spoken, sound perfectly fine even when we use them several times in a row. Yet when they’re written down, they tend to stand out. And not always in the best of ways.

Actually, that’s true of most words. Printed vocabulary quite simply has a bad habit of sounding very repetitive very fast.

This isn’t to criticize all written repetition. There are definite instances when it can help emphasize a point, making sure that nobody misses the intended message. Though, even then, writers have to be careful to sound engaging instead of falling into that dreaded R-word trap.

Repetition. It’s just got a way of souring what could otherwise be a compelling message.

This can even be true of simple words like “that,” which we tend to think of as pretty innocuous most of the time. It’s a harmless little pronoun.

That. That. That.

See? No killed copies in sight.

If that’s your response to these allegations against “that,” it’s understandable. And, to be fair, you can use words like “that” a lot more often than something striking, such as “onomatopoeia” or “illustrious.” However, if you want your writing to flow as smoothly as possible, keep an eye out on your “thats” all the same.

When in doubt, see if you can switch them out with “this,” “how” or some other equally innocuous vocabulary choice. Consider the following editorial decisions in the completely fabricated findings below…

Original Completely Fabricated Finding 1: In a survey of apple tasters in New York City, where three varieties were presented to attendees at the Food Lovers Festival, 76% preferred slices of honeycrisp, 20% cast their votes for pink lady, and the remaining 4% chose gala . Yet that wasn’t the case at the Foodies Unite event in Atlanta that same year. In that instance, only 50% preferred honeycrisp, whereas a solid 30% selected gala as their fresh fruit snack of choice.

Revised Completely Fabricated Finding 1: In a survey of apple tasters in New York City, where three varieties were presented to attendees at the Food Lovers Festival, 76% preferred slices of honeycrisp, 20% cast their votes for pink lady, and the remaining 4% chose gala. Yet this wasn’t the case at the Foodies Unite event in Atlanta that same year. In that instance, only 50% preferred honeycrisp, whereas a solid 30% selected gala as their fresh fruit snack of choice.

Original Completely Fabricated Finding 2: Psychologists now say that teaching your children to believe in the Easter Bunny can have intense effects on their willingness to believe you later on. That is a controversial notion in certain parenting circles, admittedly. But Dr. Everett, who heads up Adolescent Studies Today in Baltimore, Maryland, points out that children are constantly learning what and who to trust.

That means that, when they realize the Easter Bunny is a myth, some part of their minds will label their parents or guardians as liars.

Revised Completely Fabricated Finding 2: Psychologists now say that teaching your children to believe in the Easter Bunny can have intense effects on their willingness to believe you later on. That is a controversial notion in certain parenting circles, admittedly. But Dr. Everett, who heads up Adolescent Studies Today in Baltimore, Maryland, points out how children are constantly learning what and who to trust.

That means when they realize the Easter Bunny is a myth, some part of their minds will label their parents or guardians as liars.

That” second revision features another solution to this sometimes repetitive pronoun. Just cut it out altogether. There’s no need to say “that means that” in most cases, unless – as mentioned earlier – you’re really trying to drive a point home.

Stick with “that means,” and your sentence is bound to make just as much sense while flowing “that” much better.

And “that” can make all the difference.

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