Writing Tip: Treat the Word “That” Like a Cuss Word

Donald Miller

If you’re a decent writer, one tip that will take your writing over the top is to lose the word “that.” I learned this from William Zennser in his book “On Writing Well.”

Instead of saying “I believe that we should…” try “I believe we should…” The word “that” makes the sentence weak. It loses some of it’s punch and makes the writer sound apologetic.

Go through your latest blog or chapter in a book and take out the word “that” as many times as you can. Treat it like a cuss word from now on, that is it’s okay to use sometimes, but sparingly and only when it actually can’t be removed.

Ridding your writing of the word “that” is much harder than you think. It seems to sneak into every piece I write. Often it’s not until the third or fourth editorial pass I get rid of all the excess “that’s.” Sadly, even in this blog entry I had to delete a few. They’re like cockroaches!

I hope that this tip helps your writing. Or better said, I hope this helps your writing.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been telling his story for more than a decade, now he wants to help you tell yours. He’s helped over 1,000 companies clarify their message through the StoryBrand Workshops. For an introduction to what he’s doing now, check out the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover.