There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

It’s Not So Bad . . . Is It? October 16, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:30 am
Tags: , , ,

So, here’s the thing. I read this really great, enlightening post on the word ‘it’, and said word’s usage in writing. That being, laziness. Now that I want to reference the original post, I can’t locate it. I even went back in my handy WordPress reader. No luck. Which means the blog was one of those I get e-mail updates on and I’ve deleted it.

Anyhow, I will admit, I never gave It much thought until I read that post. I mean, who doesn’t use that tiny word, right? Such a simple creature, really. Two letters. Most times I’m not even aware I’ve read It. Like ‘said’, It blends into the sentence, unassuming and totally at peace with the surrounding words. It causes little trouble. Keeps to Itself. I never suspected It suggested laziness as a writer. I actually hadn’t dwelt on It at all.

Until that fateful post. Now I can’t get It out of my head. But I’m very conscious of trying to remove it from my writing now. Is that good or bad? I haven’t yet decided. I don’t want to be a lazy writer. I don’t want to use words such as thing, stuff, something . . . You know, “He picked up the thing.” Well, what is the thing? What’s it look like, feel like, smell like? Even if he doesn’t know what the thing is, he certainly knows those bits of information. Right?

“He heard something.” Really? Something like . . .  a whistle, a hoot, a scream, a bang, a thump . . .what?

Now there’s It.

Is this lazy writing? Jenner picked up the sword. He swung it, marveling at the way it whistled through the air. He had just enough coin. It could be his if he wanted it.

All right, it’s not winning any literary awards, that’s not the point. The point is, what if I write this instead: Jenner picked up the sword. He swung the weapon, marveling at the way the blade whistled through the air. He had just enough coin. The sword could be his if he wanted to part with his gold.

Is the second attempt better with the elimination of It? I definitely had to work harder, coming up with other words to replace those two lovely letters. Did the change improve the writing? What do you think? Does It go onto the list of Lazy Writer Words That Shall Be Avoided?

~ K. L. Schewngel


3 Responses to “It’s Not So Bad . . . Is It?”

  1. Very interesting – now I will be excluding ‘it’ a lot more.Thanks

  2. Kate Sparkes Says:

    I honestly didn’t enjoy the second example much more than the first, and I’d prefer to see something in between the two.You’re right, “it” disappears just as much as “said” or “he” or “she” does in text. True, “it” can be over-used (and perhaps was in the first example), and can be as confusing as any pronoun if it’s unclear what “it” refers to. But when we try too hard to exclude it, things can get awkward, just as they do when we try to exclude “he” or “said.”

    Drives me crazy when writers are obviously trying to avoid any of those words, I swear.

    “Don’t hit me!” the rednead snivelled.
    The accountant pulled his fist back, then struck his opponent with his own tightly bunched fingers. “I’ll do it if I want!” the scruffy-facedblond roared, and smacked his knuckle-bunch into the opposite palm for emphasis.


    Sometimes “it,” “he” and “she” are less irritating than the alternatives (and I much prefer “said” most of the time). I say use whatever makes the sentence flow best and doesn’t give you an awkward, trying-too-hard structure. Use “it” if it works, use something more descriptive if you can and it flows well.

    In your example, I’d prefer: “Jenner picked up the sword. He swung it, marveling at the way the blade whistled through the air. He had just enough coin. The weapon could be his if he wanted it.” Less wordy, still more interesting than all “it,” but not distracting.

    But it (ha, ha) is mostly personal preference, I suppose. 🙂

  3. deshipley Says:

    I tend to be leery of accusations of lazy writing, because there’s no sure way of knowing how much effort went into the crafting of the sentence before the writer decided she’d said what she meant in the way that sounded most right to her.

    All words have value, when used in the proper time and place. “It” is fine and useful, so long as it’s been established what “it” is referring to. Writers who wish to write simply and clearly may have an unnecessarily difficult time of it if they have to put half of their creative energy into avoiding words that don’t merit strict avoidance.

    *observes instances of “it” she could easily remove from the comment*
    *chooses to leave them as they are, on principle*

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s