Said That

I got a question from the Peanut Gallery today. Don in Houston writes:

“I need guidance on when to use ‘that.’ Which sentence is preferred?

1)  Tom said he would finish the job tomorrow.

2)  Tom said that he would finish the job tomorrow.

The standard engineer’s answer works here: That depends. (pun intended)

When using “that” as a conjunction to introduce a dependent clause, you can generally do without it for simplicity’s sake – except when you can’t.

The AP Style Guide recommends:

1)  Omit “that” if the dependent clause after it starts with the verb “to say.”

Example:

Tom said he would finish the job tomorrow.

2)  Leave “that” in when there is a time element between the verb and the dependent clause.

Example:

Tom said this morning that he would finish the job tomorrow.

3)  Leave “that” in after the following verbs: assert, contend, declare, estimate, make clear, point out, propose, and state.

Examples:

Tom asserted that he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom estimated that he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom proposed that he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom stated that he would finish the job tomorrow.

4)  Leave “that” in before subordinate clauses that begin with the following conjunctions: After, although, because, before, in addition to, until, and while.

Examples:

Tom said that although it might cost more, he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom said that after the valve was delivered, he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom said that because he was getting married on Saturday, he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom said that while the weatherman is calling for thunderstorms, he would finish the job tomorrow.

Rule of Thumb:

If in doubt, include the word “that,” as it’s never wrong to have it in there, whereas if you leave it out, the meaning of the sentence can get messed up.
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Profound Quote of the Day:

“I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the esthetic appeal of flying.” –  Amelia Earhart, American aviator, 1898-1937

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