English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am aware of the usage of "lack thereof", but I was wondering whether it is valid to use "lack of it".
During a conversation with someone I used "lack of it" in a sentence, and she claimed that it is an error and that "lack thereof" should be used instead.
Example sentence:

Do you think that accent (or lack of it) is a critical factor in obtaining a job?

share|improve this question
It's not wrong. The two are syntactically identical. – Dmitry Brant Apr 17 '13 at 19:28
'or lack thereof' is the "accepted" (common) way of saying it, but it's not an error to say or write it your way. – Tyler James Young Apr 17 '13 at 19:28
Thank you both! – EyalAr Apr 17 '13 at 19:30
Or lack thereof is indeed the most usual way of saying it; but that's a 'fossil' from legal language, and your version, or lack of it, is much better suited to even the most formal modern discourse. – StoneyB Apr 17 '13 at 21:12
up vote 2 down vote accepted

"Lack of it" is a more awkward construction of the sentence than "lack thereof." Though words like "thereof" can seem stuffy or antiquated, they are often the best way to express yourself.

share|improve this answer
Though one could of course take the view that sometimes it is "better" or more effective to use plain, boring, universally understandable language rather than fancy antiquated verbiage. Both arguments can be made... – Neil Coffey Apr 18 '13 at 19:53
I fail to see how ‘lack of it’ is somehow more awkward than ‘lack thereof’. If anything, it is the opposite to me; and there are contexts in which ‘lack thereof’ is not a possibility at all. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 17 '13 at 18:03

The issue is obscured for me by another issue -- that the sentence itslef is a little awkward. Obviously we understand that we're talking about the candidate's accent, but that could be clearer.

Do you think that a candidate's accent is a critical factor in obtaining a job?

If that is present then I think that "(or lack thereof)" becomes a more clear choice. I'd prefer to use commas though:

Do you think that a candidate's accent, or lack thereof, is a critical factor in obtaining a job?

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.