Have you noticed how some passages of copy seem littered with ‘that’? And how removing all the unnecessary ones instantly gives copy more flow and conversational tone?
It’s almost as if spoken language has tuned it out, except where it’s necessary for emphasis, or as a ‘pointer’ – as in ‘And that’s why I buy XXXX, ‘I want that one’, or ‘stop it, that’s enough!’
Its other ‘uses’ don’t crop up nearly as much when we’re talking. Try it. Only when we write does it tend to creep back in. This shows how people often think written and verbal communications require difficult skills or approaches. Well, they do to a point. But the more you write like you’d speak to a friend, colleague or client, the easier and more natural your copy is to read – and the more effectively it gets your messages across.
To demonstrate, here are two short paragraphs. Identical except for the systematic and careful removal of all extraneous ‘that’s…
She peered around the door and asked me about the book that I was reading, and said that she’d read it a long time ago. I smiled, and told her that I read it a long time ago too, but that it was just as good the second time, if not better.
She peered around the door and asked me about the book I was reading, and said she’d read it a long time ago. I smiled, and told her I read it a long time ago too, but it was just as good the second time, if not better.
(That’s) much better, isn’t it?