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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Trouble With "IT"


it -- (pronoun) to refer to some matter expressed or understood, or some thing or notion not definitely conceived.

Lately, the indefinite "it" has been catching my attention in my writing. "It" can refer to a single noun, or an entire sentence, depending on how it's used. Most of the time, "it" is one of those invisible words, like "of" that acts as the glue that joins our words to express a thought. But at times, "it" takes the place of nouns where writing what "it" actually is would make the work clearer and more descriptive and, therefore, stronger.

During the writing process, "it" slips from my fingertips without much notice. Only when I go back and reread do I catch those instances where the actual definition of "it" is needed.

Here are a few examples of using the indefinite "it" and then replacing "it" with stronger more descriptive words:

Now she knew the answer to the question of how Cade had been burning through money so quickly. He’d succumbed to gambling fever. It struck her that he’d be no help to her at all.

Or...the more definite, descriptive would be written like this -- Now she knew the answer to the question of how Cade had been burning through money so quickly. He’d succumbed to gambling fever. The thought struck her that he’d be no help to her at all.

Here's another one -- Gunfire echoed along the street. It seemed to come from all directions.

Here's the same line after replacing "it" with the noun "it" describes -- Gunfire echoed along the street. The sound seemed to come from all directions.

Here's an example of a line where "it" refers to a noun that immediately precedes-- Bold as brass, she stopped in front of him and slid her hands under his shirt where he’d pulled it free.


In this case, the use of "it" is preferable. If I wrote --Bold as brass, she stopped in front of him and slid her hands under his shirt where he'd pulled his shirt free. --the line is not only repetitious, it also sounds rather silly.


To catch all the vague and indefinite "it's" I started using the search and replace function in Word. But this is time-consuming and it also pointed to a possible overuse of the word "with." Oy! I'm hoping that since I've become more conscious of the problem, I'll be more likely to catch most of the "it" instances during the writing process rather than later in edit mode.


Happy writing! and watch out for those pesky "its."


Devon

4 comments:

  1. Oh yes. I'm not so bad with 'it' words, my problem is 'ly' at the end of everything. Mostly adverbs. 'Really' is a bad one. And 'only' pops up a lot. But I don't notice it until I'm really looking for it, only once in a while. Ha Ha. ;)

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  2. Oh, yeah. Adverbs and I are old friends from way back when flowery prose was the way it was done. Can't say as I miss them though. Funny how we all get hung up on certain words. I think mine is "actually" but it shows up mostly in email and blog comments. Actually, I've been trying to do away with it. ;o)

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  3. My most overused word in manuscripts is "that."

    Of course now I wonder if I should do a search for "it."

    Oof.

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  4. I trip over "that" a lot, too. And in a lot of cases, I can just delete it and never even miss it. It's old school vs. the new. Back in my day "that" was a fairly necessary conjunction. Now, they've changed the rules. I'm still a diehard "comma comes before too," too. And I don't see much of that anymore. To me, leaving off the comma is plain wrong.

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