Usage and Grammar

Q. In a recent New York Times online article, I noticed several instances where that was dropped in cases of indirect address. Here’s one example: “But Dr. McNiff said closing half-empty schools that were in aging buildings provided significant savings.” Should there not be a that after said? Or was it eliminated to avoid the awkward “that . . . that”? It seems to be common practice, but is it correct?

A. Newspaper writers make a habit of dropping an optional that to conserve space, and if the sentence is readable, there’s nothing wrong with omitting it. Sometimes it is needed, however, to keep the reader from stumbling: She maintained the haircut on a strict budget was optional. He allowed children in his swimming pool were a nuisance.