Write Now reader Simon Lewis joins the great ‘that’ debate:
Definitely one of my bugbears, that. Take this example: ‚ÄúThe teaching medical students receive also leaves them with an incomplete picture.‚ÄĚ I started interpreting this as ‚ÄúThe medical students who teach‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ and then obviously realised [that] it was supposed to be interpreted ‚ÄúThe teaching *that* medical students receive‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ. I‚Äôm all for brevity, but not at the expense of clarity, and definitely not at the expense of causing the reader to re-start the sentence!
So it looks like there needs to be a context-specific clause added to our rule.
If the ‚Äėthat‚Äô doesn‚Äôt add any clarity to the sentence, as in ‚Äėthe watch [that] my father gave me‚Äô, then cutting it is fine.
But if the ‚Äėthat‚Äô distinguishes the word preceding it as, for example, a noun (as it does for the word ‚Äėteaching‚Äô in Simon‚Äôs example) rather than an adjective (which is how Simon interpreted the word to begin with, as a way of defining the ‚Äėmedical students‚Äô) then for goodness’ sake leave it in.
This does, at least, reinforce the importance of another thing we stand for: proofreading!