Usage and Grammar

Q. I read a lot and have been working on a novel of my own for a while now. In most of the materials I read the authors use “had had” and “that that” quite often. For example: “He had had the dog for twelve years and everyone knew that that was the real reason he didn’t want Animal Control to take it.” I doubt there is any actual rule against this, but I find it to be unattractive on a purely aesthetic basis and try to avoid it like the plague when writing. Is there anything to this or am I just weird?

A. As you can see here, correct isn’t always pretty. So you aren’t weird; you’re a writer, and one of the things that makes you a writer is that you’re sensitive to ugliness. Once you’re sensitive to clichés, you’ll be all set.