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A Word You May Have No Need Of

Another word you usually don’t need is of. I spend almost as much time taking out of as I do that. You can take of out of all the sentences [not “all of the sentences”] below:

I knew all of the people at the party.
All of the answers flew out of my head.
I know of some things we can do.
We went outside of the house.
I want to see you all of the time.

You want to keep of in places where you mean “pertaining”:
He spoke highly of his friend John.

Or when using the phrase “outside of”:
Outside of [with the exception of] a dog, a book is man’s best friend.

That That Might Not Be That Necessary

“That that that that writer used is unnecessary . . .” Many of my clients will tell you I have a thing about “thats.” Writers too often throw in a that for good measure, cluttering sentences with that word all too often. Much of the time you can take that that out.

Here are some instances where you can take that out:

I said that she could come over.
I hope that you will understand.
I want to tell you that I love you.

Use that when you want to set something apart from something else:

I want that donut—not the one with the sprinkles.
Not everything that glitters is gold.

If you take that out and the meaning is confusing, keep it in. But at least try reading your line without it to see if that that is really essential! That’s all folks!

Each Thing Must Be the Same

Do you remember the old Sesame Street shows? I grew up singing that song that asks “Which of these things doesn’t belong?” When you are listing a number of things in sequence in a sentence, be careful of faulty parallelism. I see this a lot. If you “list” three things in parallel construction, make sure each element is the same kind. Sometimes “one of these things just doesn’t belong.”

“I ate potatoes, apples, then dug in the garden.”

“I ate potatoes, ate apples, then dug in the garden.” Or “I ate potatoes and apples, then went outside and dug in the garden.” (You need a verb to go along with each object.) The way to check your parallelism is to restate the sentence with the first part of the phrase matching each part: “I ate potatoes. I ate apples. I dug in the garden.” The word I starts each phrase.

“She likes singing, dancing, and to play the violin.”

“She likes singing, dancing, and playing the violin.” (Each word in the sentence has to be in the same form. Another way you could rewrite that would be “She likes to sing, dance, and play the violin,” as the word to fits with each verb.)

“I like to eat chocolate, playing card games, and riddles.”

“I like to eat chocolate, play card games, and tell riddles.”

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