Avoid starting sentences with ‘it’

Avoid starting sentences – and especially paragraphs – with “it.”

By starting a sentence with “it,” you can confuse the reader. After all, what exactly does “it” refer to? The previous sentence should specifically give the word that “it” clearly refers to. For example: “Ask him out for dinner. Then pay for it.” In this case, “it” clearly refers to “dinner.” If this doesn’t occur, you’ll want to restructure the sentence.

In addition, starting sentences with “it” usually means you’re using passive voice. Typically the word “is” follows “it,” as in “It’s very stressful for a relationship to survive in circumstances such as this.”

Starting a sentence with “it” rarely is the tightest of writing. The sentence probably can be shortened. For example, “It took a lot of hard work and a lot of luck in matching up two people, but it was done” could be rewritten as “A lot of hard work and luck was needed to match up two people, but it was done.” The second sentence is three words shorter and easier to read.

To rewrite a sentence that starts with “it,” ask yourself what “it” refers to. The answer is what should be used in place of “it” in your sentence. To wit, in “It’s relatively inexpensive to get a background check and will put your mind at ease,” “it” really is “getting a background check.”

Next, replace “it” with your answer (and clean up the rest of the sentence), so that you have “Getting a background check is relatively inexpensive and will put your mind at ease.” You still have passive voice, but the sentence is tighter and clearer.

An exception to this rule is dialogue. People naturally misuse “it” when speaking, and to make dialogue appear realistic, you may want to have a character start a sentence with “it.” This generally is a good idea for characters trying to figure out something about themselves or another, as starting a sentence with “it” suggests that their thoughts are still nebulous and unclear.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.