It’s a darn shame, doncha think?
So tell me…what does the “it” refer to in the sentence above?
It’s crazy isn’t it?
“IT” has become the most overused, misunderstood, misused “crutch” word in the English language.
You can look back over my 2700+ blog posts, and you’ll see that I’ve almost never started with the word “it’s”. That’s a weak start to any story.
Lately, I’ve been going back through emails, bio’s, letters, news releases, and other written content and expunging “it” from my phraseology. Officially, “it” is a nominative pronoun. Mostly, the word is used to represent an inanimate thing understood, previously mentioned, about to be mentioned, or present in the immediate context. Or used to represent a person or animal understood, previously mentioned, or about to be mentioned whose gender is unknown or disregarded. [Dictionary.com].
The problem is, the object, animal, or person previously-or-about-to-be-mentioned is often unclear. In fact, “it” has come to replace nouns that were never mentioned, nor will be mentioned. All too often, over-use of “it” can leave a sentence confusing and misleading. When I proofread my stuff, now, I try to replace “it” with the real noun, person, or object to avoid confusion.
Why should you — as a voice-actor — care about “it”?
Well, we’re here to interpret the copy, right?…to discern the author’s intent, no? Then, “it” alla sudden becomes kinda important! If you don’t understand what the “it” refers to, then won’t you miss the intent, the flow, the meaning?
To prove my point, I just now went to a queue of waiting auditions, and pulled one up at random. Seriously. Here’s a word-for-word copy of two sentences in the spot:
Well, it’s much more than a relationship. It means that all of these XXXX share a common belief in the power of XXXX.
In the interest of avoiding a lawsuit, I X’d out a couple of key words. But did you notice the two “it” words?
I just went to another spot waiting for my dulcet tones: “It starts with a single step” is one of the lines.
Does it matter what “it” means in these examples?
Go back in the copy and see what the “it” refers to. Almost every time I do that, the understanding changes my read of the copy. For the better, I would hope.
“It” is too embedded and entrenched in our spoken and written word to expect the word will fall into oblivion. “It” is too convenient!
Just make sure when you use “it”, your intent is still understood, not obfuscated by some tenuous string to any of 3 or more previous nouns, people, or objects.
…and when you come across “it” in audition copy. Realize that the writer might be using “it” as a crutch, but more often is probably using the word for flow. Just make sure what “it” relates back to.
It’s crazy, isn’t it?
Often copywriters use the deliberate vagueness of “it” to create curiosity to draw you into the narrative.
The first line of a commercial doesn’t sell you the product; it (with a clear antecedent to this use of the pronoun) sells you on listening to the rest of the commercial. Here are some actual “it” lines that do just that:
“it was my worst nightmare!”
“I’ll never forget it!”
And of course the renowned:
“It was a dark and stormy night”
In these cases the word creates a riddle that the listener feels compelled to solve. And they listen on to find out if they are right.
So when you see one of these “teaser” “it”s at the head of the copy, your task is to enhance the mystery and save the clarity until the “reveal” later in the copy. Of course you should understand the meaning of “it” so you can purposely withhold it until the appropriate moment.
It is something that will enhance your voice over interpretation.
Thanks Dave. I read every post… probably not 2400…