Define "It" to Strengthen Your Writing

Have you ever been engrossed in a great story and suddenly stopped short to ask yourself what the writer is referring to when “it” appears? Here’s an example:

“Sue and Mary found six dresses to try. It fit and was in her price range.”

strengthen-your-writing
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What is “it,” exactly? In the context of the sentence above, “it” is used as a pronoun, and illustrates a common (and avoidable) writer mistake:

Undefined pronouns

A quick grammar review: Pronouns are a useful part of speech that give writers greater flexibility in naming schemes. Instead of using and reusing a noun, the substitution of a pronoun allows for a type of shorthand. For example, instead of writing, “The moment John walk into the store, John realized John had forgotten John’s wallet at home” (pretty clunky, huh?), this sentence becomes, “The moment John walked into the store, he realized he had forgotten his wallet at home.”

Personal pronouns are fairly straightforward. Most of us use I, he, she, they, him, her, them, his, hers, and theirs properly . . . but “it” often present unique problems for writers.

The Problem with “It”

When I edit manuscripts, I usually see two different but related problems with the use of “it”: Continue reading “Define "It" to Strengthen Your Writing”

What Is It? Avoid Undefined Pronouns to Strengthen Your Writing

“He worked hard to earn enough money to buy it.”Undefined pronouns

What is “it,” exactly? In the context of the sentence above, “it” is used as a pronoun, and illustrates a common (and avoidable) writer error:

Undefined pronouns

A quick grammar review: Pronouns are a useful part of speech that give writers greater flexibility in naming schemes. Instead of using and reusing a noun, the substitution of a pronoun allows for a type of shorthand. For example, instead of writing, “The moment John walk into the store, John realized John had forgotten John’s wallet at home” (pretty clunky, huh?), this sentence becomes, “The moment John walked into the store, he realized he had forgotten his wallet at home.”

Personal pronouns are fairly straightforward. Most of us use I, he, she, they, him, her, them, his, hers, and theirs properly . . . but “it” often present unique problems for writers.

The Problem with It #grammar #writetip #editing Click To Tweet

The Problem with “It”

When I edit manuscripts, I usually see two different but related problems with the use of “it”:

  1. The pronoun “it” does not relate to the antecedent
  2. The pronoun “it” is part of vague sentence construction.

In plain English, the first problem is using a pronoun that is ambiguous or doesn’t refer to a specific noun. Example:

 Although the pizza delivery van ran into the school bus, it was not damaged.

Does “it” represent the pizza delivery van or the school bus? We just can’t tell by the way this sentence is constructed. The pronoun doesn’t clearly relate to the antecedent.

Vague sentence construction and the indefinite use of “it” often calls for a sentence revision. Here’s an example of a problem sentence:

“Mary wondered if it was something about the energy of young people that animals pick up and want to be around.”

When “it” is combined with a form of the verb “to be,” take a closer look to see if there might be a better way to construct your sentence:

“Mary wondered if animals pick up on the energy of young people and want to be around it.”

In the above example, “it” stands in for “the energy of young people.”

 “Mary wondered if the energy of young people was something animals pick up and want to be around.”

This example eliminates “it” completely.

When self-editing your work, remember to add “it” to your list of words and terms to search and possibly replace. You don’t need to avoid this pronoun, but use “it” wisely and properly.

If you have any great tips for avoiding the overuse of “it” in your writing. please share in the comments.

Happy Writing,

Candace

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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Manuscript Editing Demystified

I was invited by Shonda Brock, author of the paranormal romance Eternal Traces, to help demystify the editing process for new authors as well as to share some tips on how to edit your book and how to find the right professional editor.

Shonda asked some great questions; here’s one with my answer as a sneak peek, and then I invite you to jump over to The Paranormal Blog and read the rest.

What do you find are the most common mistakes writers make? Most writers fall into a pattern of error that they aren’t even aware of. When we don’t know we are doing something incorrectly, we just keep repeating the same mistake. If you have a tendency to use dangling modifiers, for example, you probably use them quite frequently. The same can be said for comma splices, run-on sentences, and of course, punctuation, which is almost everyone’s Achilles heel. I was the queen of semicolons before I learned how to use them correctly!

Shonda asked some great questions, including “What are your thoughts on authors using beta readers before sending a manuscript to a professional editor?” and “How much can a writer expect to spend to have an average length novel professionally edited?”, so please head over to The Paranormal Blog to learn more, and don’t forget to check out Shonda’s paranormal romance Eternal Traces!

Thanks for stopping by, and happy writing!

—Candace

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