Usage and Grammar

Q. When writing a scholarly article, can you use the word that in this context? “It held [that] a nurse’s discretion is not authority exercised in the interest of the employer.” My question is whether that should be taken out, because it seems to be an extra word that is not needed.

A. I disagree—that is sometimes an important clarifier. It sets the reader’s expectation for the construction that follows. Consider “I held the baby was stickier than usual.” The reader might stumble by mistaking the noun following the verb for a direct object (“I held the baby”), whereas adding that will prevent misunderstanding (“I held that the baby . . .”). I would use that in your sentence to smooth the way for the dependent clause, because without it, I expect something like “It held a nurse’s discretion to be such and such.”