Get out your ‘that’ eraser to lower your editing costs

by | Feb 3, 2023

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(This post was originally published before I had a website where it could live. I hope you enjoy this update.)

Long ago in a galaxy far, far … oh. Wait a minute. That’s a whole ‘nuther thing.

I know many of you appreciate the mini office tech ‘fixes’ you find in my Quick Win ([QW]) posts. Those issues are where I’m asked for the most help, so I pass along the solutions. Let’s non-overwhelm them, right?

Welllll … back when the earth was still cooling with my company, I was an editor and proofreader. Whole other set of issues, but I can help you there, too!

Clients were wrangling sales pages, business documentation, advertising materials … and their book. I thought you might appreciate a look at editing from this side of the computer screen. 

It pays to look professional

I still run into people who need a good editor or proofreader. I suggest – before going too far in their search – they find out how to help the p.r.o.f.e.s.s.i.o.n.a.l they seek. (Never proof your own work!)

Professional editing and proofreading is worth the effort … and the investment.

Get out your ‘that’ eraser!

“When you sit down to edit a book,” my friend asked all those years ago, “what’s the first thing you look for?”

“That what?”
“Just … ‘that.’”

A long pause. “I don’t underst…”
“I do a search for the word ‘that.’ I need to delete most of ’em.”

“Oh-h-h. How long does it take?”
I sighed. “Usually a bunch of hours.”

Oof! Hours? To simply delete a word over-and-over-and- … ?
Your editor may not tell you, but I will: there’s no ‘simply’ about it.

Good editing takes time

One of my early services – beyond ensuring a document was grammatically correct – was tightening text and suggesting ways to make it flow better.

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to real editing, as opposed to someone charging you $29 to ‘review’ your 50,000-word book with a spell checker. Yep. If you’re lucky, $29 might also get you a quick run-through with the Grammarly program. Don’t fall for it. 

Now, having said that, Grammarly is a great tool – and I recently renewed my annual paid subscription – but it doesn’t replace a human editor (nor does it claim to). By the way, there’s a free version of Grammarly, too. Check it out!

Among other tasks, a person taking time to read what you write might

  • Find unnecessary words and phrases to delete.
  • Update wrong words for this particular instance (for example: replacing ‘then’ with ‘than’).
  • Move sections to a different page or chapter.

Most editors also have a list similar to my ‘7 deadly words’ that could add hours to a job.

My ‘7 deadlies’ are

Actually, Also, Literally, Really, So, That, Very

Your editor may look for different words but believe me … they’ll have a list!

‘Deadly’ offenders add time ($$) to the job, and they usually indicate sloppy writing throughout the file. Sloppy writing takes time ($$) to fix.

In my experience, if ‘the deadlies’ were more than 2% of the entire word count, the project was problematic. I would charge accordingly, and if I guessed wrong about ‘problematic,’ the client received a lower invoice than they expected. (This is one reason your editor might give you a price range for their work.)

‘That’ was the biggest offender

‘That’ was usually the biggest problem I found, and it cost clients dearly: in one way or another, editors charge for every word in the original file. 

Here’s an example of how easy it is to save money with your editor:

I worked on a 30,000-word book filled with the “7 deadlies.” There were over 500 occurrences of the word ‘that,’ alone. I removed 475 of them (95%), but the client paid me for all 500, not only 25 of them.

Just between us, ‘that’ is rarely needed in a sentence. It’s usually a great one to dump.

Suggestion: search for your editor’s ‘deadlies’ and delete the ones you can before handing over your work. It won’t hurt to run through my list as well. Any extras you remove may help lower your invoice. 

Here are three examples where we can remove the word ‘that’ and improve a sentence.

  • “He noticed that she wore the blue dress instead of the red one that he preferred.”
    “He noticed she wore the blue dress instead of the red one he preferred.”

  • “Once we have the answer to your question, that should give us an idea of our approach.”
    “We can shape our reply when we have the answer to your question.”

  • “When would you consider that to be a problem?”
    “When would this be a problem?”


It’s not as easy as “Delete and move on ….”

In the first sentence, “that” isn’t needed at all.

The second example was OK, but the flow is better with the revision. (And a good flow keeps our readers engaged. Important!)

In the third sentence, I replaced awkward text. 

See how it works? In my experience, surrounding text often needs changing after an edit. Rewriting is particularly troublesome if we overuse certain words related to the subject matter, too.

For example, talking about a training course and always referring to it as ‘the course.’ During the initial review of your file, your editor will see some of those items and start thinking of ways to shake it up a bit (with ‘training,’ ‘exercises,’ or ‘instruction,’ perhaps). You’ll have a better document, but you pay the expert to get you there.

Howzabout keeping that good editor?

Assuming our files don’t have time-consuming issues to fix, ‘cleaner’ copy usually means a smaller invoice. Plus, we may have found our editor for our next project. And the next. And the next.

I often took on jobs I knew I could finish quickly, get paid on time, and enjoy the story along the way. It’s not just about the per-word rate. Sometimes it’s about a happier journey … and the no drama non-overwhelm.  😎 

Note: Did you notice I used a few of my ‘deadlies’ in this post? What’s up with that?!? None of the words are verboten. But they are often overused to the point of being distracting and coming across as unprofessional. (I’m almost ready to add an 8th ‘deadly’ … the word ‘like.’ Grrrr.) Be careful out there!

Hey! thanks for reading all the way to the end. I have a little present for you. I created a handout for the times I spoke to groups about saving money on writing projects.

The term “first draft” can mean different things, depending on whether we’re an author or an editor. Click this button to find more posts about editing.

Near the end of the post 4 money-saving steps to your first draft, you’ll find a link to a full-color infographic cheat sheet for your next writing project. 

Other articles about editing    Articles about proofreading

Enjoy, download the 4 steps infographic, and feel free to pass on a copy to others.

Oh, and by the way: the two friends I mention in the infographic? Grab the two who complain the most about every book, flyer, email, and billboard they read. If we’ve goofed, those are the friends who will find it. They are our best free editors (though it may cost us a coupla pizzas)!


Also, feel free to subscribe to my newsletters so you won’t miss future business ideas or Quick Win tips.

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If you have a project that’s shooting some angst your way, let’s take a look and non-overwhelm that puppy.

Click here to email me and start the conversation:    
Who knows? A quick (non-invoiced, not a sales call!) suggestion might be all you need to get unstuck.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me.
I know you’re busy, and I appreciate your time.


Kathie York is the Queen of Non-Overwhelm and a Certified Goal Success Life Coach. She launched a training program, in early 2023, to answer the question, “How can I reach my goals?” Students love it! Check it out here. Although her office is located near Indianapolis, Indiana [U.S.], Kathie works with colleagues worldwide.

Other articles    Kathie’s book

Check out Laura Lopuch’s helpful, non-spammy approach to
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Kathie York, CSQE
Queen of Non-Overwhelm
Goals Accountability Instructor

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