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February 2016 Volume 12 Issue 2

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.

That Overuse

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.


Tough Homonyms
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. 619-291-4645

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