Welcome to The Yocum Library of Reading Area Community College's Blog!

For many years we have published a print newsletter for the RACC community that provided information on the library's staff, resources, and services. In order to provide information on a more timely basis, we decided to switch to the blog format. We hope that you enjoy learning more about The Yocum Library of RACC.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

July 4th, 2015

This Day in History - Jul 4, 1776

July 4, 1776: American colonies declare independence

On this day in 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of a new United States of America from Great Britain and its king. The declaration came 442 days after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and marked an ideological expansion of the conflict that would eventually involve France's intervention on behalf of the Americans.

The first major American opposition to British policy came in 1765 after Parliament passed the Stamp Act, a taxation measure designed to raise revenues for a standing British army in America. Under the banner of "no taxation without representation," colonists convened the Stamp Act Congress in October 1765 to vocalize their opposition to the tax. With its enactment in November, most colonists called for a boycott of British goods, and some organized attacks on customhouses and homes of tax collectors.

After months of protest in the colonies, Parliament finally voted to repeal the Stamp Act in March 1766. Most colonists continued to quietly accept British rule until Parliament's enactment of the Tea Act in 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering British East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny.

In response, militant colonists in Massachusetts organized the "Boston Tea Party," which saw British tea valued at some £18,000 dumped into Boston Harbor. Parliament, outraged by the Boston Tea Party and other blatant acts of destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, called the Intolerable Acts by the colonists, in 1774. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America and required colonists to quarter British troops.

In response, the colonists called the first Continental Congress to consider united American resistance to the British. With the other colonies watching intently, Massachusetts led the resistance to the British, forming a shadow revolutionary government and establishing militias to resist the increasing British military presence across the colony. In April 1775, Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, ordered British troops to march to Concord, Massachusetts, where a Patriot arsenal was known to be located. On April 19, 1775, the British regulars encountered a group of American militiamen at Lexington, and the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. Initially, both the Americans and the British saw the conflict as a kind of civil war within the British empire. To King George III, it was a colonial rebellion, and to the Americans, it was a struggle for their rights as British citizens. However, Parliament remained unwilling to negotiate with the American rebels and instead hired Hessians, German mercenaries, to help the British army crush the rebellion.

In response to Britain's continued opposition to reform, the Continental Congress began to pass measures abolishing British authority in the colonies. In January 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, an influential political pamphlet that convincingly argued for American independence and sold more than 500,000 copies in just a few months. In the spring of 1776, support for independence swept the colonies, the Continental Congress called for states to form their own governments and a five-man committee was assigned to draft a declaration. The Declaration of Independence was largely the work of Virginian Thomas Jefferson. In justifying American independence, Jefferson drew generously from the political philosophy of John Locke, an advocate of natural rights, and from the work of other English theorists.

The declaration features the immortal lines, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It then goes on to present a long list of grievances that provided the rationale for rebellion. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to approve a Virginia motion calling for separation from Britain. The dramatic words of this resolution were added to the closing of the Declaration of Independence.

Two days later, on July 4, the declaration was formally adopted by 12 colonies after minor revision. New York, the 13th colony, approved it on July 19. On August 2, the declaration was signed. The American War for Independence would last for five years. Yet to come were the Patriot triumphs at Saratoga, the bitter winter at Valley Forge, the intervention of the French and the final victory at Yorktown in 1781. In 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris with Britain, the United States formally became a free and independent nation.


Daily Writing Tips

*Sense vs. Sensibility
By Maeve Maddox

A reader asks about the words in a Jane Austen title:

You may already have discussed ‘sense’ and ‘sensibility’, but if not, could you program an entry. I am not sure if Jane Austen’s word meant something particular to that time. Is there a distinction to meanings between/among ‘sensibility’, ‘sensitivity’ and ‘sensitiveness’, and add in ‘sense’ too?

Sense has twenty-nine numbered definitions in the OED, several of them with subsections. Sensibility has seven numbered definitions, four of them with subsections. I shall confine the remarks in this post chiefly to the words as Austen used them in the title of her 1811 novel.

The word sense occurs dozens of times in the novel, with various connotations, including these:

sense of honor
sense of merit
in one’s right senses
sense enough to call for help

As used in Austen’s title, sense refers to what modern speakers still mean by “common sense”: “combined tact and readiness in dealing with the everyday affairs of life; general wisdom.”

The novel focuses on the love life of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Elinor represents the Sense of the title. Even when her heart is breaking, she maintains a polite façade of courtesy and tact, reasoning that what can’t be helped is not to be agonized over.

Marianne represents the Sensibility of the title, what modern speakers might call sensitivity, or even hypersensitivity. When Marianne suffers emotional anguish, everyone knows about it.

Austen sets up the differences between the sisters in her description of the way they deal with the death of their father. Elinor feels the same grief as her mother and sister, but, unlike them, she is able to govern her feelings and attend to practical matters. Marianne and their mother, on the other hand, wallow helplessly in their sorrow and refuse to be comforted:

Marianne’s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor’s. She was…clever; but eager in everything: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.

Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister’s sensibility; but by Mrs. Dashwood it was valued and cherished. They [Marianne and her mother] encouraged each other now in the violence of their affliction. The agony of grief which overpowered them at first, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, was created again and again. They gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increase of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it, and resolved against ever admitting consolation in future.

Sensibility in the sense of the quality of being easily and strongly affected by emotional influences was still a fairly new usage in Austen’s day, giving the title a certain up-to-date catchiness.

The plural, sensibilities, is current in modern usage to mean “feelings as to what is appropriate or decent”:

The treatment of low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects should always be subject to the dictates of good taste and a regard for the sensibilities of the audience.—The Hays Motion Picture Production Code, 1930.

And while the boundaries have clearly been pushed way back, movies continue to emerge which challenge our notions of what is acceptable, depicting acts of sex and violence in increasingly graphic style and often offending the sensibilities of the prudish and conservative.—Recent blog post about 21st century films.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Word of the Day

1. highly excited by eagerness, curiosity, anticipation, etc.
1. in a state of eager desire; excitedly.

She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school.
-- Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, 1929

Agog may come from the Middle French en gogues meaning "in jest." It entered English in the mid-1400s.


Library Quotes

Library Humor

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Tuesday, July 28, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Where: Resource Fair in TTC

Word of the Day

\HOL-uh-freyz, HOH-luh-\

1. a word functioning as a phrase or sentence, as the imperative Go!

Addressed by a man of college age, Kellett could not so much as mumble the holophrase “Help!” in response, still less reply in declarative utterances.
-- Dennis Ford, Red Star, 2007

Holophrase came to English in the late 1800s from the Greek roots holos meaning "whole, entire" and phrásis meaning "diction, style, speech."


Daily Writing Tips

By Maeve Maddox

An ESL reader has a question about the expression “tit for tat”:

If Tit is something we all commonly understand then is Tat the male counterpart of Tit? What does Tit and Tat mean in this idiom?

The impulse to attach a gendered meaning to the words in this idiom illustrates how folk etymologies are invented. In fact, “tit for tat” is an altered spelling of the expression “tip for tap.”

In the context of the original idiom, both tip and tap refer to a slight blow. Tip retains this meaning in the context of baseball. A pitch at which the batter swings and makes slight contact is called a tip. A “foul tip”—a tipped ball caught by the catcher—counts as a strike.

Tap, in the context of lightly striking something, is in general use as both noun and verb:

“Stopped at the traffic lights, he heard a tap on the window. (noun)

If a person has had multiple untreated concussions, could a simple tap to the head be harmful? (noun)

She paused, leaned over, and tapped him on the chin. (verb)

Woman in Court Fakes Hurt After Being Tapped on Head (verb)

“To give one tip for tap” was “to return blow for blow.” The figurative meaning was “to retaliate.” When the pronunciation and spelling changed, the original meaning remained attached to the altered form. Here are examples of recent usage of “tit for tat”:

“For the rest of the game, each team matched the other tit for tat.

Three men have been arrested after a series of violent tit-for-tat attacks

[G]iven the way Netanyahu has treated Rivlin, one cannot help wondering if there will be tit for tat following the March elections.

In the world of education, and most likely everywhere else, there is the pervasive presence of tit-for-tat. If I walked a mile to school in the snow, so can you. If I had to work hours and shed blood, sweat and tears, so can you.

“To give tit for tat” is not always used with the meaning “to return an injury with an injury.” Some speakers use it to convey the idea of cooperation or reciprocation:

Gifts should not be tit for tat, period.

When we hear the following expressions, we know the Law of Reciprocity is at work: “Quid pro quo”; “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”; “Tit-for-tat”; and “Give and take.”

In Cockney rhyming slang, “tit for tat” translates as “hat.”

Note: Rhyming slang uses a phrase to stand for a word that rhymes with the last word in the phrase. The phrases are then shortened to the beginning word or words. For example, the sentence “Me trouble bought ‘erself a new tit-fa” translates as “My wife bought herself a new hat.” (“trouble and strife”=wife).

Here are some more words and expressions that convey the sense of “to give tit for tat”:

fight back
hit back
return like for like
get back at someone
get even
get one’s own back
pay someone back
give someone a taste of their own medicine
take revenge
be revenged
avenge oneself



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Scheduled Classes for Computers

2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Reserved - Ms. Mollica
Where: Yocim Instruction Area
Calendar: Yocum Library
Description: computers only

6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Reserved - Ms. Mollica
Where: Yocum Instruction Area
Calendar: Yocum Library
Description: computers only

Word of the Day

\tuhl-uhs-THEE-zhuh, -zhee-uh, -zee-uh\
1. sensation or perception received at a distance without the normal operation of the recognized sense organs.

People might think it was about necromancy or telesthesia or something.
-- Stephen Dixon, “The Play,” The Play and Other Stories, 1988

Telethesia entered English in the late 1880s and stems from the Greek têle meaning "far" and aísthēsis meaning "sensation, perception."


Library Humor

5 Ways To Tell If Your Genealogy Research Is Accurate

There is a lot of guesswork and uncertainty in genealogy. People in the past may have put the wrong information on old records, either from genuinely not knowing, or from having something they wanted to hide.

Mistakes can be made in transcriptions of documents from one location to another; even tombstones are known to sometimes have mistakes on them from the stone cutter. Census takers make mistakes in the spellings of names (and even dates and places of birth of the householders they enumerate). Those who published family genealogies back in the 19th century, when this was a popular thing to do, often relied on legend, gossip, and the erroneous family stories other people gave them.

There is a lot of room for human error in genealogy research, and you are undoubtedly going to come across it, either in the work of others, or through mistakes you make in your own work. Even the best genealogists will once in a while discover they got an entire line wrong based on one incorrect assumption, misinterpretation of a record, or by obtaining a faulty record. With so much room for making mistakes, how do you know you’ve gotten it right? How do you know if your genealogy research is successful?

The fact is, except for mother/child relationships (and even these might be non-biological without you knowing it, if there was a secret adoption), genealogy is never a 100 percent sure thing. Even the best, most carefully carried out research can still potentially be proven wrong by a future researcher who discovers a clue no one ever noticed or that has just come to light.

However, there are a few ways to be as sure as you can ever possibly be that your research reveals the correct family relationships and information. Here are five ways you can tell if your genealogy research is most likely correct.

1. You Have Found the Same Information in More Than One Set of Records
The more often a family relationship, name, birth or death date, marriage date, or other important piece of family information is repeated through various record sets, the more likely it is to be correct. This is especially true if the records are primary records (records generated at the time of the event they mention).

For example, if you find the same names of parents or birth date or any other type of information for an ancestor in:

Birth and death certificates
Old newspaper birth and death announcements or other articles
Military records
the more reason you have to trust that the information is correct. Unless you find something drastic later that makes you question this information, or that refutes it entirely, you can be reasonably sure your research into this person is successful.

2. Your Research Matches the Research of Other People
In the online age, you are bound to come across people who are distant cousins or relatives by marriage who are working on your line. They may have been working on it for a while, possibly just as long as you or longer. It is important to compare research with these people.

If you find that your research matches up, including the sources you both used to arrive at your conclusions, you can have a great deal of confidence that your research is correct. If there are discrepancies in your research, then one of you is wrong, and you both need to look at your work again.

If you can find other people who have worked on the same line, try matching up your research with theirs. In fact, the more people you find who have done the same research and whose research is identical to yours, the more sure you can be that your research is correct.

3. You Can Reverse Engineer Someone Else’s Work
Those big genealogy books of the 19th century, though notorious for containing mistakes, also contain many correct things. Most of them come with annotations in the form of footnotes and/or endnotes as to where the author got the information used to write the genealogy.

Use these sources and find them yourself. It is always good genealogical practice to look at the original record in any case. You may find information on it the original researcher missed. If you can go through all the sources the author used and still come to the same conclusions as him or her, then you can be as sure as you can be that your research is successful.

4. Look for Confirmation for Your Wild Assumptions
Sometimes, in genealogy research, we have to take a leap of faith in our conclusions due to a lack of solid evidence. Even the well-respected genealogical journals often contain articles where the author made their conclusion based on an assumption. However, those assumptions are always backed up with ample amounts of secondary evidence (evidence where the record doesn’t outright state a family relationship or date, but one can be inferred from the information that is there).

If you have made a large assumption in your research, look for secondary evidence to back it up. The more secondary evidence you can find, the better. Once you’ve accumulated enough of it, you are at a point of being as sure as you can be about the accuracy of this line.

Of course, the best thing is if you one day discover a primary record that confirms all of this secondary evidence. Keep looking for a primary source, even if you have a lot of secondary evidence. Just because you haven’t found one yet doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It may be out there waiting for you to find it.

5. Get DNA Evidence
While still relatively new to the world of genealogy, DNA has a remarkable ability to prove and disprove family relationships that would once have been impossible to confirm. While DNA may not be able to tell you the exact names of your particular ancestors, it can definitely put you in a suspected ancestor’s family (or take you out of it) without a doubt.

If you have a person in your family tree with whom you have a suspected but unconfirmed direct relationship, DNA can confirm or deny it for you. You just need to get at least one (but the more the better) modern descendant of that person to compare their DNA with yours. The various DNA testing companies online can then tell you if the two of you are genetically related within a certain number of generations.

The more people you can get to take the test, the more accurate your results will be, especially if one person doesn’t match up with all of the rest of the people who tested into the family. DNA offers about the surest way to confirm the success of your genealogy research, as there is no room for human error in DNA results.

Genealogy is imprecise and uncertain by nature. There is always a chance a relationship or information about an ancestor’s birth, death, marriage, or anything else is wrong. This is more true the farther back into the past you go. People weren’t always as careful about accurate record keeping as they are now, and making up noble lines of descent to make a family seem more prestigious was common. While you can never get around these things entirely, you can make sure your genealogy research is as accurate and successful as it can be by using the five tips above. Being as sure as you can be is the same as declaring victory in genealogy.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Scheduled Classes for Computers

9:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. Reserved—Ms. Essig Where: Yocum Instruction Area Calendar: Yocum Library Description: Ms. Brenda Essig COM031 College Study Skills (12) No Instruction; reserve 12 computers. 2 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. Reserved- Ms. Dina Delong Where: Yocum Instruction Area Calendar: Yocum Library Description: Ms. Dina DeLong COM121/122 (16) Using Proquest Central online database presented by Ms. Kim Stahler. 6 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. Reserved-Ms. Dina DeLong Where: Yocum Instruction Area Calendar: Yocum Library Description: Ms. Dina DeLong COM121/122 (14) Using Proquest Central online database presented by Ms. Patricia Nouhra

Library Humor

Should You Say “Between You and I” or “Between You and Me”?

Grammar is a combination of rules and conventions. What is the difference? Well, there are the rules, like a verb must agree with its subject. By that rule, “he say” is incorrect. Then there are conventions, which are uses of language that are common enough that even though they break the “rules” they become “correct” simply through repeated usage. Additionally, there are other conventions that vary from place to place, but that’s a much bigger discussion.

In the introduction to the 2003 edition of The King’s English, Matthew Parris reminds us that, “There is no authority. English is not a managed language. Nobody is in charge.” Over time, English speakers themselves become the authority. Some accepted conventions sound very natural, like saying “I’m good” instead of “I’m well.” Through their ubiquity, they’ve become an accepted part of the language.

Now what about “between you and I”? Technically, it should be “between you and me.” However, the phrase “between you and I” has become accepted as an idiom of its own. Even Shakespeare used it! Confusing “me” and “I” is one of the most common grammar problems. Using the word “I” can sound learned and elite; however this leads to it being overused when it’s actually incorrect.  This problem is called hypercorrect incorrectness. The “you and me” problem is confusing when there are two objects, as in the sentence “Thanks for inviting my husband and I to dinner.” If you are ever unsure, here’s a simple trick. Omit the first person and see how it sounds. If you said, “Thanks for inviting I to dinner,” it sounds wrong. Without two people, it is easier to use your ear to hear if “I” or “me” is grammatically correct.


Daily Writing Tips

How to Punctuate Quotations
by Mark Nichol
Quotation marks are signposts indicating that spoken or written words are being expressed. They have other purposes, too, but this post confines itself to this role.

Despite the ubiquity of quotation marks, some people still err in placement of the closing mark. Generally, a close quotation mark follows rather than precedes a sentence’s terminal punctuation, as in the sentence “You have nothing to worry about.” (Styles for quotation marks in British English differ from those for American English: Terminal punctuation follows the close quotation mark, and dialogue and quotations are enclosed in pairs of single, not double, quotation marks.)

Notice, however, that I wrote “generally,” and not just because of the British English exception. (As you see here, a comma, like a period, is located inside quotation marks when it follows one or more words thus confined.) What are the exceptions? If the terminal punctuation mark is a question mark or an exclamation mark, and it appears outside the context of the quotation, it should be located outside the quotation mark as well.

(In the examples below, which I enclose in double quotation marks because they are themselves excerpts of written documents, the sentences in question are bracketed by single quotation marks — the correct style for a quote of a quote.)

For example, notice the placement of the question mark in “Who said, ‘You have nothing to worry about’?” The framing sentence, not the quotation, is an interrogative sentence, so the question mark belongs outside the single quotation marks bracketing the quotation (but inside the double quotation marks, because it is part of my example.) By the same token, in the sentence “I can’t believe he had the nerve to say, ‘You have nothing to worry about’!” the indignation resides in the context of the framing sentence, not in the recitation of another person’s contentious comment.

Notice also that, though a period would ordinarily be located within the quotation followed by the question mark and a comma would usually appear after “about” in the example with the exclamation point, quotation marks and exclamation points trump and replace periods and commas in such sentence constructions. Punctuation marks are never paired (except in the use of multiple question marks or exclamation points in informal writing, and in the case of a close parenthesis and a period, like the tag team you see right here).

That’s not all there is to quotation marks, of course. For example, in a future post, I’ll discuss the subtleties of proper placement of attributions, those identifying phrases such as “he said” or “she added” so fundamental to both journalism and literature.

* http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-punctuate-quotations/

Monday, June 29, 2015

Scheduled Classes for Computers

9 a.m. - 10 a.m. Reserved-Ms. Gieringer
Where: Yocum Instruction Area
Calendar: Yocum Library
Description: Ms. Dawn Gieringer COM 131 (15) Using literature databases presented by Ms. Brenna Corbit.

Word Fact

*Word Fact: What Is the Difference Between i.e. and e.g.?

They may be small, but their power to befuddle writers and speakers of the English language is mighty: what’s the difference between i.e. and e.g.? And what are the correct uses of these commonly confused abbreviations?

The term i.e. is a shortening of the Latin expression id est, which translates to “that is.” It is used to introduce a rephrasing or elaboration on something that has already been stated: “I like citrus fruits, i.e., the juicy, edible fruits with leathery, aromatic rinds of any of numerous tropical, usually thorny shrubs or trees of the genus Citrus.” In this example, i.e. introduces an elaboration on citrus fruits.

The term e.g. is an abbreviation of the Latin expression exempli gratia, meaning “for the sake of example” or more colloquially, “for example.” It follows that this term is used to introduce examples of something that has already been stated: “I like citrus fruits, e.g., oranges, lemons, and limes.”

One easy way to remember the difference between these two is by employing a simple mnemonic device: think of the i at the beginning of i.e. as standing for the first word in the phrase “in other words,” indicating that the clause that follows will rephrase or explain what precedes the term.  E.g. is a little more straightforward since e stands for exempli meaning “example.” To ensure your mastery over these terms is not tarnished by misplaced punctuation, remember that in formal writing, e.g. and i.e. are often set off in parentheses and followed by a comma; in less formal writing, it is standard to place a comma before and after these terms.

* http://blog.dictionary.com/whats-the-difference-between-ie-and-eg/

Word of the Day


1. Chiefly British. trickery, hocus-pocus; fraud; humbug.
2. Chiefly British. sly, underhanded action.

A wealth of impure jiggery-pokery, much of it very funny, all of it unusable; a spate of “fixables”; a bunch of excellent poetry (see below) and a partridge in a pear tree.
-- Mary Ann Madden, “New York Magazine Competition,” New York, October 9, 1972

Jiggery-pokery entered English in the late 1800s and is an alteration of the Scots expression joukery-pawkery.


This Day In History - June 29

June 29, 1613:
The Globe Theater burns down

The Globe Theater, where most of Shakespeare's plays debuted, burned down on this day in 1613.

The Globe was built by Shakespeare's acting company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, in 1599 from the timbers of London's very first permanent theater, Burbage's Theater, built in 1576. Before James Burbage built his theater, plays and dramatic performances were ad hoc affairs, performed on street corners and in the yards of inns.

However, the Common Council of London, in 1574, started licensing theatrical pieces performed in inn yards within the city limits. To escape the restriction, actor James Burbage built his own theater on land he leased outside the city limits.

When Burbage's lease ran out, the Lord Chamberlain's men moved the timbers to a new location and created the Globe. Like other theaters of its time, the Globe was a round wooden structure with a stage at one end, and covered balconies for the gentry. The galleries could seat about 1,000 people, with room for another 2,000 "groundlings," who could stand on the ground around the stage.

The Lord Chamberlain's men built Blackfriars theater in 1608, a smaller theater that seated about 700 people, to use in winter when the open-air Globe wasn't practical.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Interesting Article in Genealogy Research

* Learn Your Lineage Through Your Feet.

It's been proven that our feet can tell us many things, but did you know that our feet can tell us about our lineage? Based on this simple foot reading test we can learn our true descent

Foot reading: what your toes say about you

Your Feet: What They Look Like Gives Valuable Information

"Yup I'm Greek" by David Kanigan


Daily Writing Tips,

When To Keep “That”
By Maeve Maddox

Since the 9th century, the word that has been one of the most frequently used words in the English language. It functions as pronoun, adjective, adverb, and conjunction.

A browser search for “that” brings up 14,490,000,000 hits.

Small wonder so many copy editors do their best to stamp out that whenever possible.

One editor tells his authors to search their manuscript for all uses of the word that and then “Evaluate each and delete 95% with no loss of meaning.”

I’d say that 95% is a bit high, but writers can reduce the number in a great many instances without loss of meaning. On the other hand, that should not be purged blindly in a misguided effort to save words.

The following statement by a police spokesman quoted in a newspaper account illustrates the natural use of that in spoken English:

We have to make sure that there is nobody inside any house; there’s always the potential that our suspects have fled into a house that was occupied, which is why it’s highly important to us to make sure that’s not the case.

Four thats occur in this sentence:

1. conjunction introducing a noun clause that is the direct object of “to make sure.”
2. conjunction introducing a fuller explanation of the noun potential.
3. relative pronoun standing for house and introducing the adjective clause “that was occupied”
4. demonstrative pronoun, subject of is (“that is not the case”).

Two thats can be dropped without loss of meaning:

We have to make sure there is nobody inside any house; there’s always the potential our suspects have fled into a house that was occupied, which is why it’s highly important to us to make sure that’s not the case.

A third that can be eliminated with a slight rewording:

We have to make sure there is nobody inside any house; there’s always the potential our suspects have fled into an occupied house, which is why it’s highly important to us to make sure that’s not the case.

How does one decide whether to keep or omit that? Clarity is the main consideration. Will the reader understand the sentence without out? Some readers may stumble over a missing that.

A writer’s preferred style is another determining factor. My own style tends to be rather heavy on the use of that. For example, I would probably keep that after potential in the original quotation. A writer may feel that a sentence flows more smoothly with that than without it.

That can usually be omitted after the verb say:

Dickens said that he wrote A Christmas Carol as a “pot-boiler.”

Dickens said he wrote A Christmas Carol as a “pot-boiler.”

But even with the verb say, if an adverbial element intervenes between the verb and the clause, that is needed:

Dickens said in an interview that he wrote A Christmas Carol as a “pot-boiler.”

Dickens said years later that he wrote A Christmas Carol as a “pot-boiler.”

When in doubt, keep the that. As it says in The AP Stylebook, “Omission can hurt. Inclusion never does.”

The following verbs should be followed by that:
make clear
point out


Pun Humor