Sunday, November 10, 2013

"IT"-- To Be or Not To Be?

A lot of writers blog about important issues like how to create a story's atmosphere; how to develop characters; writing believable dialogue and the like. Not me, though! While I'm not out to become the trivial topic titleholder, some not-so-obvious matters have a way of capturing my attention now and then. When that happens, I like to share. Are you ready? Drumroll, please.

Today I'm taking issue with the word "it". WOW, right? While certainly not an earth-shattering subject, or even a blip on most people's "take notice" meters, that tiny, inconspicuous, two-letter word is capable of weakening your writing. That's true, I swear! 

In everyday conversation--no big deal. In print, however, both the overabundance and 'fuzzy' usage of "IT" can sabotage clarity and dull your writing's sharpness. You don't believe me? Hmmm. Let me see if I can give a quick example to illustrate those points.

It began as a note, then line by line, evolved into a three-page letter. Ethan folded it and tucked it into his jacket pocket. Once Kathleen read it, it would be too late. It would be over.  

Okay, six "ITs" is taking this example to the extreme, but shows how easily the word can pop up while making perfect (if unclear) sense and dooming the writing to "blahness".  

In the revised version below, the elimination of the "ITs" serves two purposes. Removing them breathes more life into the writing while providing more specificity. The changes make the intended meaning crystal clear. 

The message began as a note, then line by line, evolved into a three-page letter. Ethan folded the sheets and tucked them into his jacket pocket. Once Kathleen read his confession, there was no taking the admission back. Their relationship would be over.

Should "IT" be banned altogether? Pfft! Perish the thought. We need "IT"...just not plastered all over the place in lieu of more carefully chosen words and phrases. Doesn't that take a lot more effort? Darned right, but that effort will pay off in terrific results.

Try this. Go over your writing. Everywhere you find an "IT", check your options. See if another word, phrase, or whatever would result in bringing more life and/or clarity to the writing. Don't worry; not every "IT" will need replacing. Make it (See there?) a habit and, before long, using livelier, clearer replacements will become habit.

All right, I'm off to create more problems for my protagonist. Poor Ray Schiller! He's got no idea what's in store for him this time around.

Don't forget to leave your comments! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this or any other topic.

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