What is It?

Today we continue with the editing stage of the writing process. I have copied the following blog post because we can’t always get to external links from our in school filter and I know you can all get my blog posts.

This is from the blog of Candace Johnson who 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.

She has explained the problem with unidentified pronouns so well, that I am referring you to her blog for this subject.

What Is It? Avoid Undefined Pronouns to Strengthen Your Writing

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

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”

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

If you enjoyed reading this and want to improve your ability to self-edit and revise your work, please subscribe by entering your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

 

As students, many of you also make this mistake by using the pronouns he, she, they, etc. in your writing, when you have not first identified who he, she, or they are. Your essays must be clear and you have to identify specifically who you are talking about prior to using any pronoun that might be unclear to the reader.

About mrsscales207

My life has taken many paths. I grew up in Farmland, Indiana and graduated from Monroe Central High School in 1979. Yes I know that seems like a long time ago to most of you. After I graduated from High School, I went into the U. S. Navy. Not a lot of women enlisted in the Navy back then. Boot camp was still segregated (that means there were only women in my boot camp) and yes, boot camp is as bad as they say it is. I survived though and began seeing a little more of the world than just our lovely corn and soy bean fields of Indiana. I was an advanced avionics technician and worked on F14 Tomcat jets in the Navy. Back then women couldn't go on ships but I was stationed in Bermuda for a little over a year. Bermuda is beautiful and the people are warm and friendly. I married my husband while in the Navy and we eventually moved to Minnesota.
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