Hundreds of years ago, church worshippers would forego the use of lard, sugar, fat and butter for six weeks each spring as a form of thoughtful penitence.
Pennsylvania Dutch folk make big batches of fasnachts on Mardi Gras in order to deplete those products from the cupboards before Lent begins. Each year thousands of people make pledges to give up something for Lent… perhaps coffee or chocolate.
Me? I’m giving up a word for Lent this year. “That”
Yes, you heard me correctly. I’m giving that up.
Our editing group has been looking closely at throw-away words. One group member found more than one thousand instances of that in her first draft, and about three-quarters of them were completely unneeded.
Ex: It was obvious that the cake was chocolate. Better: It was obvious the cake was chocolate.
It tightens the read. Quickens the pace. Our reader’s ears don’t miss that at all.
If you would like to join my word-boycott, simply pull out some of your recent writing and have a look for that special word. Does the sentence read just as well if not better without it? Yank it out like a bad tooth.
When that is used for specificity (ex. That cake was delicious), you can keep it with a clear conscience.
Granted, the world will not cease to spin when you make these small changes within your writing, but at least you won’t get headaches from caffeine withdrawal!