For many beginning writers, use of the word that is a problem. In addition to adding needless words to a manuscript, its constant repetition causes choppiness and interrupts the flow of your writing.
Over the weekend I attended the monthly meeting of the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America chapter (http://www.ovrwa.com/). Author Ann Warner (http://www.annwarner.net/) presented an insightful and informative workshop on editing.
The first exercise she assigned for us was to look through the works in progress we'd brought and highlight the word that in our first two pages. Ms. Warner was pleased to see that none of us raised our hands when asked if it appeared five or more times. "You're not beginners," she said. But at one time, we all were.
In Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, that and which are discussed as follows:
That is the defining, or restrictive pronoun, which the nondefining, or nonrestrictive.
The lawnmower that is broken is in the garage. (Tells which one)
The lawn mower, which is broken, is in the garage. (Adds a fact about the only mower in question)
The use of which for that is common in written and spoken language...Occasionally which seems preferable to that...But it would be a covenience to all if these two pronouns were used with precision. The careful writer, watchful for small conveniences, goes which hunting, removes the defining whiches, and by so doing improves his work.
I just want to add to that, although I lack the eloquence of Mr. Strunk and Mr. White here, that a careful writer will trim those thats, too! Remember that trimming that unnecessary that from your writing is like trimming that unnecessary fat from your diet! And that's a good thing!
Any comments on that?