RedPen Editing
It – the most abused pronoun

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It is the third person singular pronoun. It can be the subject or the object in a sentence.

It’s fun. I like it.

Without a few clues, whatever ‘it’ refers to is unclear! Somewhere prior to this text, we need a noun …

Dancing. It’s fun. I like it.

If you have more than one ‘it’ within the same sentence/paragraph, it’s important they all refer to the same thing. Here is an example. Three of the four occurrences refer to an envelope; the other one doesn’t.

“What’s the sense in that, when you can open it now?” Heather wafted it above her head, the envelope frip-frapping.

It was impossible to resist. Sally stood up and snatched it out of Heather’s hand.

More often than not, such overuse of ‘it’ is easily remedied. Where it says nothing – or requires any mental agility on the part of the reader – make it say something.

  • Instead of ‘Lovely, isn’t it?’ write ‘Lovely, don’t you agree?’.
  • Instead of ‘What time is it? write ‘What’s the time?’.
  • Instead of ‘I couldn’t believe it.’ write ‘No!’ or ‘You are kidding!’ or ‘Incredible!’.