What About That?
A speech coach will likely tell you it’s important to eliminate um and hmm from presentations. To me, the writing equivalent of those unfortunate flow stoppers is that. Every day, I see overuse and misuse of this word; I’ve edited many documents where I eliminated it many, many times—with no effect on the content other than making it more concise.In both cases, sentence B is more streamlined than sentence A, simply because that has been eliminated. So, be alert to where that occurs as you review your work and delete it when it makes sense. Don’t just get rid of them all; that is appropriate in some instances.Misuse. One of my biggest pet peeves is when that is used instead of who. It happens so often that when I point it out, many people respond with, “I see it that way all the time.” That doesn’t mean it’s right—it means a lot of people are making the same mistake. Here’s an example:A. San Diego Padres fans that watched their team lose three straight to the Dodgers are less than pleased.B. San Diego Padres fans who watched their team lose three straight to the Dodgers are less than pleased.Sentence B is correct because fans are people, so they should be referred to using who, not that. The same goes if you use any word that describes a human being, e.g., entrepreneurs, a landscaper, the babysitter. Once you start using who correctly, you’ll probably start to notice how many others incorrectly use that to refer to people. Welcome to the club!Overuse. While you can’t delete that entirely from your writing efforts, once you start paying attention to your use of it, you’ll see it’s often easily taken out. Here are two examples: A. Our company is committed to excellence in all that we do. B. Our company is committed to excellence in all we do. A. We recommend that you hire the most experienced person for the job. B. We recommend you hire the most experienced person for the job.
Grammar and AI
SD/PEN has an interesting topic for its meeting this month: Why You Should Learn Grammar in the Age of AI. The speaker is Tim Palmer, an instructor at UC San Diego Extended Studies. The Zoom event is Thursday, May 18 at 6:45 p.m. I plan to be there. If you’re interested in attending ($7.50 fee for non-members), get your ticket here.
Name or pronoun?
Most people take a lot of pride in their own name and enjoy seeing it in print. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, when you’re writing a bio, it’s important to not overuse your name. My rule of thumb is to alternate using a person’s first name and their pronoun (he, she or they).No: Adrienne has been freelancing since 2004. Adrienne works as a writer and editor. Yes: Adrienne has been freelancing since 2004. She works as a writer and editor.