I heard an author mention her memoir – weighing in at 103,000 words – was too long and she needed to shorten it.
The first thing she did was search for all occurrences of the word “that.” By removing there unnecessary appearances in her manuscript she cut a thousand words – or about one percent – from her book.
Although she still had a long way to go in her book’s weight-loss plan, a thousand-word reduction just by removing the extraneous inclusions of “that” is significant.
I’ve since put my work on a “low-that” diet, too. And I’m shocked at how often I thoughtlessly pop “that” in when there’s no need to do so. Of course, we do need some “that” in our writing, so a “no-that” diet would be bad, but most writers could benefit by drastically limiting their use of “that.”
I know I can.