[Originally Broadcast on
Public Radio]

Beware of "IT"

The nice part about writing music lyrics is that you can break all the rules. Tom Jones started his sentences with IT and got a gold record for the effort. Remember? "It's not unusual to be loved by anyone"

Buddy Holly did it and Linda Ronstadt got a hit record out of it: "It's so easy to fall in love!"

But IT isn't all that simple; at least, not when comes to writing.

You see, IT is what we call a relative pronoun. And like most relatives, IT causes all kind of problems; especially when we don't know what they're talking about.

Did I hear someone say "Cut IT out?"

I hope not. But that's a good example of what I mean. Like I said, IT is a pronoun and if you forgot everything else about grammar, I'll bet you still remember that pronouns take the place of nouns. So…when you're writing about something, you can substitute the pronoun for the noun.

And we do that all the time.

"I hate that haircut Joe got. It makes him look like a serial killer."

IT…is the haircut. .

"It makes a lot of sense."

IT …is what I just said.

No problem in those instances. And there's no problem with figures of speech, "It's raining." No confusion there. We all know what IT is. But if you refer to IT and there isn't a noun out there somewhere for your reader to connect IT with, you can get yourself in a heap of trouble.

"It's too bad…"

What's too bad?

"It's too bad that Dr. Write didn't win the lottery."

I agree. But where's the noun?

The solution to this grammatical road block is this: never…never, never ever, start a sentence with IT. You'll avoid a lot of confusion.