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Friday, October 3, 2008

Criminal Sentence 103: The Dreaded "It"

From something I edited:

"At age 90, it is likely Stevens will retire soon."

Another mistake I see a lot:

"As a new mom, it's hard to get up every two to three hours."

In both of these sentences, the dreaded "it" appears instead of the real subject. "It" is not age 90; "it" is not a new mom. These are misplaced modifiers. As a copyeditor, it bugs me to see them so often. (Um, I mean, As a copyeditor, I...)

So, who is 90? Mr. Stevens:

"It is likely (that) Stevens, age 90, will retire soon." (Add a "that" if you like.)

Who is a new mom? Well, no woman in particular:

"It's hard for new moms to get up every two to three hours."

Both of these newly minted sentences happen to start with "It," but that's not required. We could have said these sentences different ways, but I felt the above choices were the best.

When you start a sentence with a short phrase that ends in a comma, be careful an "it" isn't accidentally there (the word "there" also is incorrect in that location). Be sure the subject you're talking about is right next to your description.

If you have any questions about this, I urge you to read Chapter 5 of my book.

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