Re: Overuse of "It"

Subject: Re: Overuse of "It"
From: Janice Gelb <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2007 12:03:44 +1100

John Posada wrote:
>
> I think, for each example, an important issue is what was the
> sentence immediately preceding each of the instances.
>
> For instance, you may have:
>
> The XYZ Server is based on technology that is almost 7 years old. It
> may be slightly older than the matching server at our remote backup
> facility...
>
> In cases such as these, it would be wordier if the word "it" wasn't
> used.
>
> "The XYZ Server is based on technology that is almost 7 years old.
> The XYZ Server may be slightly older than the matching server at our
> remote facility...
>

Or without the "it":

"The XYZ Server, which is based on technology that
is almost seven years old, might be slightly older
than the matching server..."

>
> or
>
> Our IT environment is composed of 27 servers. It appears that 25% of
> the servers are being utilized at less than half of their capacity.
>

"Our IT environment is composed of 27 servers.
Usage reports indicate that 25%..."


>
> You mean it is condescending to read?:
>
> "Is it important to note that even though the state of the Finish
> button does not change visibly, you cannot finsh input untill all the
> fields are filled in." (BTW...please forgive any minor wording
> issues...I'm on my 12th hour at the office today.)
>

Yup - two choices:

* Cut out the phrase and start with "Although the state
of the ..."

* If it's really important, put it in a note.

>
> Interest, the same thing. "As the system administrator, you may find
> it of interest that with the 2.0 release, we've redesigned the GUI
> frontend of our application based on input from you and other
> managers." (OK, maybe a little marketingish, but I stand by the
> intent.)
>

Sorry, too Marketing for words, no cookie for you :->

And even if you were to leave the Marketing stuff
in, you could still reword the sentence to get rid
of the problematic "it" construction (and first
person plural, for that matter!):

"Input from system administrators and other
managers influenced the redesign..."

Or if you wanted it to be more audience directed:

"System administrators might be interested to
note that..."

Rarely if ever are the indefinite "it" constructs
a better choice. I do agree wholeheartedly that
a blanket prohibition against beginning sentences
with "It" would result in clunky repetition of
noun strings and have no objection when the referent
for "it" is clear. But fuzzy intros like "It appears"
can almost always be rewritten to make the sentence
clearer.

-- Janice

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References:
RE: Overuse of "It": From: John Posada

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