The authors of the series of white papers I’m editing this week pay a great deal of attention to language use and formatting. I’m not finding much to note, except for one thing.
Many of them make the error of omitting “that” when it would improve clarity.
Yes, whether to use it or not is largely a judgment call. When in doubt, though, it’s better to leave it in. Including it is rarely wrong, and at worst, it might be unnecessary. But leaving it out can be wrong.
An example: “The survey results suggested South Texas English teachers do not have access to professional development.”
Technically, this is correct. But adding “that” helps the reader know to shift from the survey the results: “The survey results suggested that South Texas English teachers do not have access to professional development.”
Let’s not go overboard, though. Sometimes, it’s better to omit it. “The head of the National Governors Association said professional development was important.” Here, “that” is not necessary after “said.”
But in some cases, leaving it not only confuses the reader, but is incorrect.
Consider: “The head of the National Governors Association announced the plan would be implemented today.”
“That” is needed after announced to prevent confusion. And it’s especially important in cases like this, which have an element of time.
Otherwise, it’s not clear whether the plan will be implemented today, or if it was announced today.
Leaving out “that” here muddies the message. And that is the last thing we want to do!
When it doubt, leave “that” in.
Ann Kellett Editing
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