Oh, It Is? But Is It Clear?

When IT Isn’t Clear

You’ve just finished the final edit on your 60,000-word book, How to Build a Better Bird House, or How To Effectively Fly A Kite. You’re sitting back with a dazed grin, your manuscript in a neat heap in front of you and an envelope addressed to some worthy publishing house right beside it. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

But wait. Before you call it complete and send it off, I’d encourage you to go back into your file and do one last search.  (Better yet, do this before you’ve printed off the whole book.) Check out “It is.” How many times have you used these little words. And is IT always clear?

For example:
The reason writers have such a low self-esteem doesn’t have that much to do with their ability to write, but it is the main factor in our being so bashful in social  situations. We lack a distinct role in an “up and at ’em” society; we go limp trying to explain what we do all day to acquaintances who actually “work” for a living. It is because of this that we tend to avoid admitting we are writers. “I restructure words and concepts” sounds infinitely more productive.

What is the main factor? The reason is? A low self esteem is? Their ability is? Our mind can often jump the gap, if it’s not too wide. You can assumes the first it is applies to the low self-esteem but what about the second it is? Does it refer back to low self-esteem or going limp or trying to explain? A reader shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to guess what it refers to.

(Note: where you find it is, you’ll often find and extra this or that as well. We think. This is the reason that we write, can be abbreviated to We write because we think.)

Why am I spouting off on this topic? I just finished doing a copy edit for a friend and took note of how often she starts phrases with It is. I noted a few sentences where it wasn’t clear what IT referred back to. And I asked myself, Now, how many times have I done the same thing in my writing?

Then I got to wondering if It is should rather be contracted to It’s, so I picked up a few books by contemporary writers to find out how they deal with It is. Contraction or no?

I checked out the first 30 pages of What’s So Amazing About Grace. (© 1997 by Philip D. Yancey, published by Zondervan) I found one it is – referring to the word grace – mid-sentence on page 12 and an It is starting one sentence on page 24. So a skilful writer can avoid using those words – something I want to keep in mind when I write.

Be sure to check out “this” and “that” beginnings, too. For example:
My poor memory gives me a lot of trouble socially: I’m terrible at remembering people’s names or where I parked the car. That is why I avoid parties.

Because I can’t remember names or because I can’t find the car later? Likely both.boo

People who indulge in fantasies need to read the Scriptures and see what they have to say about fantasy and daydreaming. This is a great way to start out your day.

Indulging in fantasies, daydreaming, or reading the Scriptures is a great way to start your day?

Look out for “they” and “their” as well, especially when the noun they represent lies in some previous sentence:

The flowers in my garden cheer me when I’m down. Blue feelings hit me so hard at times, but when my moods are almost more than I can handle, their rich tones wash away the darkness.

“Their rich tones” pertaining to the flowers, the blue feelings, or my moods?

Clarity is the essence of understanding. It really is.

Happy writing!

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.
And may your editor say, “This manuscript is well written!”

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4 thoughts on “Oh, It Is? But Is It Clear?

  1. Thank you so much for your very clear and useful advice in this post. I’m new at blogging and will certainly be reviewing my posts to see if I’m communicating effectively with “It is”. It is never too late!

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  2. How would you Like to edit a manuscript of a children’s book I wrote for me? You know what a mess I am, Might be fun at worst you could up with a book of what not to do! Still praying for you my sister, God Bless/

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    • I’d enjoy looking at your manuscript — but I’m a nit-picky editor. Ask my friend 🙂
      (Actually she was very happy with my suggestions.) And I’d be happy if your manuscript would give me some good posts on what not to do. I won’t mention names. 😉
      If you wrote it for yourself, I won’t have to hold you to the guidelines that pertain to children’s books nowadays. (For example: no parental advice or help, no adult interference at all.)
      The really interesting part about me editing my friend’s book: it was about her experience of dealing with cancer and I got my diagnosis while I was in the middle of proofreading it. So I could really identify!
      (I’ve learned that CLL — the type of leukemia the doctor tells me I have — just drags along small-scale for years, decades even, usually without treatment. (I see a specialist on the 17th for a confirmation of this diagnosis.)

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