Did your know that “That” is one of the most over used words in writing? For some writers, there is truly a love – hate relationship when making the decision to use or omit – THAT. That is considered a “needed” word. Without it your sentence may be misread by your readers. Below are a few key tips to consider when deciding to use the word that.
Add the word "that" so your sentence is not misread.
Below is a sample sentence with and without the word “that’:
a) From the upstairs window Jane saw her childhood swing, which she had loved as a child, was gone.
b) From the upstairs window Jane saw that her childhood swing, which she had loved as a child, was gone.
What’s the difference?
Sentence “a” suggest Jane saw her childhood swing; while sentence “b” suggest Jane saw that the childhood swing was gone.
When to use "which" or "that"
Word describing nouns or pronouns can be restrictive or nonrestrictive. A restrictive element defines the meaning of the word it modifies and is essential to the meaning of a sentence. A restrictive element/clause is not set off with commas. Use that only with restrictive clauses.
Restrictive Example: For camp the children needed clothes that were washable.
If you remove the restrictive element from the sentence, the meaning changes significantly. It would only suggest the children needed clothes. The intent of the writer is to suggest the children needs washable clothes.
A unrestrictive element describes a noun or pronoun whose meaning has already been defined. An unrestrictive element/clause is off with commas or parenthesis, because it is nonessential information and if removed does not change the meaning of the sentence. Use which with unrestrictive clauses.
Unrestrictive Example: For camp the children needed sturdy shoes, which were expensive.
If you remove the unrestictive element, it does not change the meaning of the sentence.
who or that - Which one should you use?
That generally refers to things, not a person. That can be used in reference to a group or class of people, only.
Example of that: The basketball team that wins this game will win the championship.
Who refers to people.
Example of who: The player who scores the most points in this game will be MVP.
When in doubt, use it.
That can be a necessary word that can give value to your sentence. When in doubt, use it. Omitting words may cause grammatical errors or disconnect the parallel structures of your sentence.