The Write Stuff
February 2016 Volume 12 Issue 2
How About That?
That is one of the trickiest words in the English language, because it can be used as a pronoun, an adverb, a conjunction and an idiom. In my experience, writers misuse that in two major ways: using it instead of who to describe a person or people, and using it at all when sentences would still be understandable without it.
That and Who
Wrong: The people that are attending spring training in Arizona are big baseball fans.
Right: The people who are attending spring training in Arizona are big baseball fans.
FYI: It’s also right to use that to refer to a person, e.g., That woman is a Cubs fan.
Meh: The city that I’m traveling to in April and May is Chicago.
Better: The city I’m traveling to in April and May is Chicago.
I used meh and better rather than right and wrong because using that where it’s not necessary isn’t really wrong — but eliminating it does make copy more concise.
A good practice while editing yourself is to see if sentences with that in them still make sense without it. Less is always more.
Some homonyms — words that sound alike but have different meanings — are tougher than others. Consider rein and reign, which both may be used as nouns or verbs.
- Rein. The noun: I attached the rein to the horse’s bit. The verb: I reined in my feelings.
- Reign. The noun: During my reign, all went well. The verb: The queen reigns with a heavy fist.
Does ASAP Mean Fast?
Every time I see the abbreviation ASAP, I chuckle, as I recall something a former boss told me a long time ago. She suggested ASAP doesn’t really mean fast if you take it literally: as soon as possible.
After thinking about that for a bit, I came to agree with her. Most people believe ASAP means something is needed right away, but as soon as possible might mean in days, in a week or even in months, depending on what the provider considers to be possible.
I choose not to use ASAP when I need something done fast. Better alternatives are asking for a quick response or rapid turnaround. Think about it.
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