What is it?

My husband and I have communication problems. He’ll ask, “What do you think of it?” I believe he’s talking about the book I’m reading, but he’s talking about the wine I’m drinking. After a couple comments back and forth that make no sense to either of us, I discover what “it” is.

IT, is a pronoun. It may take the place of a noun. (I took a peek at the package and saw it was addressed to me.) Or it may refer to a condition or action. (It would rain soon.) It may be used in place of a sex, if the sex is unknown. (It looked like a good dog.) It may be used as the subject of a verb. (It was here I fell in love.) There are additional definitions, but you get the idea.

The problem for many of us is in our speech and writing we use the word without making sure we’ve clearly indicated what IT stands for. (The same problem exists for THAT and THIS.) When that (or this) happens in our writing, the reader may be confused, and may need to go back and read the sentence again to clarify the meaning. As a writer, we don’t want that to happen. Any time we stop the forward movement of the story (force a reader to go back to understand something), we pull the reader out of the story.

My advice is don’t worry about IT (meaning the ambiguity of certain words) when writing a rough draft. You, the writer, know what you mean at this stage. Only after you’ve finished the creative process should you go back and make sure what you’re written will be equally clear to the reader.

Use Word’s Find option. (Look for the binoculars on the Home menu bar or use Control+F). Type in “it” (with no quote marks). Under More, check Find whole words only. Go through your manuscript and look at how many times you use “it.” Is it clear what “it” stands for? Have you used it too often? Would it be better to actually identify the noun?

When you finish that search, use the Find option and look for the word “that.” Do you really need “that” in the sentence? Often “that” isn’t necessary for clarification. If you don’t need it, cut it.

And with THAT said

Merry Christmas
to all who celebrate
Happy Holidays
to everyone.

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12 Responses to What is it?

  1. One of my critique partners favorite questions…. What is IT? LOL!

    Great post, Maris
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours too!

  2. Melissa Keir says:

    Such a great tip! Thanks for sharing! Merry Christmas!

  3. That’s a good tip, Maris, and a reminder to think about each word we choose.

  4. I think we are all guilty of this mistake at times. It’s a common error. Good to remind us.

  5. Paula says:

    Thanks for helping us write with more clarity. I recently read a book which kept me re-reading sentences to understand what the writer was saying. Annoying. The ‘find’ function is a lifesaver.

    • Maris Soule says:

      I agree, Paula. Using “Find” makes it easy to find words I’ve used too often. The computer doesn’t simply glance over the word, as my eyes often do. Merry Christmas to you.

  6. Dick K says:

    I wish you had been my English Teacher, might have understood better

    • Maris Soule says:

      Dick, I struggled through English. I’ve learned what I now know from reading and writing, and I know I have a lot more to learn. Have a wonderful Christmas.