JS Tip 97: From the Writing Workshops: Three More Quick Questions, Three More Quick Answers

I have a question about “that.” Is it appropriate? (Elliot Temple)

You can get rid of most of the “thats” you see. All too often, “that” is an extra word dropped in to make the 500-word count:

     The customer requested that we approve the proposal.

     The customer requested we approve the proposal.

Any difference? No. None.

Keep going.

     I don’t agree with that.

     I don’t agree.

Sometimes—sometimes—it’s necessary:

     The audit team found the documents had been altered.

This is what’s called a “garden path” sentence. It leads you down a garden path (“The audit team found the documents”) and then surprises you and takes you somewhere else (“had been altered”).

     The audit team found that the documents had been altered.

Okay. That works. That’s clearer.    

“In behalf” or “On behalf”? Which is correct? (Holly Heward)

There is no difference. There used to be, but not any more.

Older tradition used “on behalf” as “as an agent of, or on the part of”:  “Sacheen Littlefeather accepted the award on behalf of Marlon Brando, who boycotted the ceremony.”  

“In behalf” meant “for the benefit of”: “The ‘We are the World’ concert was in behalf of famine relief.”

The two phrases are now interchangeable.  

Can you provide some detail between “Will” and “Would.” (Laura Kissoon)

“Will” implies certainty:

     I will be in the office this week.

No doubt about it. She’s gonna be there.

“Would” includes some doubt.

     I would be in the office this week, but the storm may affect my plans.

It’s up in the air. No certainty. 

If you have questions, let us know.

Next week: More short questions.