What is it?
It is a pronoun that can replace a singular noun phrase. For example:
- Technology is driven by perceived needs. It is a core component of human development
In this sentence it replaces technology. Although there are 2 possible referents in the first sentence, it can only refer to technology. To refer to perceived needs, the pronoun they would be required. Therefore, in this instance, it is accurately used. However, this is not always the case.
Why should you avoid faulty usage of it in academic writing?
Using pronouns to reference previous nouns is perfectly acceptable if the reference is clear. Remember academic writing is about clarity. However, this is not always the case. Consider the following sentences:
- Personal hygiene is important at work to reduce contamination. It plays an important role in ensuring staff remain healthy and able to work
- Scientists have linked positivity to physical as well as mental health. They cautioned, it is also influenced by other variables
In the first sentence it could refer to personal hygiene or reduced contamination. However, the use of it is unlikely to cause too much confusion here, as both could be important in aiding staff`s health. However, in sentence 2, what it refers to is perhaps less clear. Possible referents are positivity, physical health, mental health, the finding, or all the above. Therefore, the use of it here needs clarifying. Consider the following:
- Scientists have linked positivity to physical as well as mental health. They cautioned both physical and mental health are also influenced by other variables
How can you avoid confusion with it?
Look at your use of it and read the sentence before to ensure the referent is clear. If in doubt, use a more precise term.