It. I Really Hate It.

I have a new word to add to my hate list.  It’s “it”.

I am trying to hand my publisher a clean manuscript.  The analyzer asked me the remove 5 cases of “there” (no problem) Once case of something else (it was easy, so I don’t remember).  It told me that I had 109 uses of “it” and I should remove 52 of them.

This task was definitely a little more daunting.  In the end, I was able to get it down to 77 cases.  The analyzer is still telling me to remove 20 cases, but these are all in dialog.  If you haven’t noticed, people use “it” in dialog, and if you try to remove “it” your characters start to sound like Robots… so my “its” are staying.  If the living breathing editors want to mention it, I will deal with it then.

One thing I did learn though, is that narration can be stronger without the word “it”.  Here are a few real case examples from LAST WINTER RED

In this first example, I took out both “it” and the second reference to the basket:

She raced past the death and decay and threw her arms around his neck, tipping her basket to the side.  Lori grabbed it before the vials spilled.  Her eyes narrowed disapprovingly as she set the basket on the table beside them. 

This paragraph always bothered me, but I couldn’t put my finger on why.  Now it flows much better… The revise, without the “it” and the second “basket”

She raced past the death and decay and threw her arms around his neck, tipping her basket to the side.  Lori grabbed the wicker handle before the vials spilled.  Her eyes narrowed disapprovingly as she set the precious parcel on the table beside them. 


Here’s another one.  Same as before, it wasn’t reading well.  We will be removing two occurrences of “it”.  I changed “the well” because I used the word “well” in the previous paragraph

He pulled on the strings, and a bucket rose from the well.  He tipped it to fill her pail and handed it back to her.

Changed to:

He pulled on the strings, and a bucket rose from the ground.  He poured the water into her pail and passed the handle to her, balancing the container with his other hand. 

When you pull these examples out of the text, these changes almost seem obvious, but believe me, all my betas read right over this, and I need to admit that the sentences are richer without that annoying little “it”.

How do you feel about “it”?


66 responses to “It. I Really Hate It.

  1. Great post Jennifer and written with a mirth! “it” is one of those words one does not use so much while speaking, but use it plenty while writing. “It” can be so annoying to the reader!!
    Keep “it” up!!

  2. Robert Gregory

    Honestly, I catch myself often tossing it out. It is so utterly ambiguous, I have no alternative for it. 🙂

  3. Excellent tip! Will need to go over my story and sort out my ‘it’.

  4. Sounds like a viable tool. Just don’t let the tool take over the worker’s job completely. A person’s creative prose could end up being flowery rather than “clean”;-)

  5. I never would have thought one word could make do much difference! Every post like this just teaches me that I still have so, so much to learn. And I have a lot of improvements to make. O.o

  6. When I was in tenth grade, I learned all about the magic of the “pronoun reference error,” and my teacher got me to stop using the word “it” for the next several years. Sadly, none of my other teachers ever cared, and I started using it more and more, and now I use it all the time. I’m also incredibly aware of how often I’ve used it in this post. It’s (darn it) funny how much better those sentences were once you removed that tiny, two letter word. Definitely gives me a lot to think about. Thanks! 🙂

  7. did you know you can use the word “that” six times in a row and it can still be grammatically correct?

  8. Here is a link to my blog post inspired by this one. Hope you think I did the subject justice.

  9. Valuable edits. Thanks for sharing

  10. Pingback: Writing, revising and linkiness | Not Enough Words

  11. Great points I never thought of. What editor do you use?

  12. This is so helpful! I’ve never really thought about ‘it’ before, but when I checked, I’m guilty, guilty, guilty. Thank you 🙂

  13. IntrovertedSarah

    LOL I put it intead of I That’s how sensative I was to the word.

  14. IntrovertedSarah

    At first It thought how techical it all was but then I read your examples and you’re right. The flow is easy. My eyes moved quicky and my brain didn’t need time to catch up. Thank you very much, it gives me a lot to think about.

  15. Excellent post. I am writing a series on taking out needless or weak words and replacing them with vibrant words. Your examples of “it” are great. I’m going on a hunt for them in my manuscript!

  16. awesome post! Thanks for your examples. This will help a lot as I read through my own writing now. Your revisions were so much better without IT.

  17. Arrrgh. (no idea how to spell that). I just found four ‘its’ on my first page. Crap, crap, crappity crap. Now I have to go through the manuscript looking for ‘it’. I had no idea I used ‘it’ that much. Back to arrgh.

  18. Your new paragraphs are smoother, easier and more interesting to read. Thanks for sharing the tips.

  19. Its a computer and you are not. Trust your gut, if you need them and you’ve thought about it, KEEP them. 🙂

  20. I am very aware of it now. Usually it (ha!) is ‘that’ which jumps out at me and drives me mad 😉 Thanks for pointing the use of it out!

  21. I had a similar result with the autocrit software. I’m good for most of the overused words, but there and it I am terrible at. Although now I’m more aware of overusing the words, I am getting much better at ‘it’. And I agree the writing is stronger without them.

  22. I always think about it when I write it, but sometimes it’s really difficult to get rid of it. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think of how to replace it with something stronger than it, but we have to keep searching for it until we make it right. Thank you for pointing out how annoying it can be. I have often sent it to the playground in my mind but it escapes often. I guess I’ll have to tie it down but I’ll have to find it first. I’m off on the quest for the annoying it. Anyone else ready to join in?

  23. I’m surprised “it” makes such a difference. Who would have thought “it”!

  24. I may have missed this in previous posts, but which program do you use for analyzing your text?

  25. Pronouns. Boon and bane, they are. Thank you for this. I’ll know to look for it now. Literally.

    My, that was clever. *cheesy grin*

  26. will have to do an examination of that myself now

  27. …hmmm never noticed it before, but hyper aware of it now.