Thursday, April 02, 2015


I was just reading a blog I liked about something I don't, and I began to cringe.

Why? Because the writer kept referring to himself as a form of "your humble correspondent" and as (shudder) the royal we.

Not once in a while. Not for humorous effect. But several times in nearly every sentence.


Journalists hate the word "I" in reporting, and there's an understandable reason for that relating to the downplaying of the messenger. Fair enough. But sometimes, a first-person perspective is unavoidable even in hard news, and the rhetorical dancing that happens in that situation is a torturous stretch of the language.

There are plenty of ways to omit a first-person perspective from reporting. One decent workaround is, "told reporters." But if there's absolutely no way around it, embrace it, I say. The implication is exactly the same as the euphemisms (such as "this reporter"), but it's more direct.

Blogging is a more conversational medium, so there's even less reason to employ stilted rhetorical dances around "I." It veers sharply into pretension there.

Again, there's nothing wrong with using such terms occasionally for effect (or if, say, "we" actually refers to a larger operation). Hell, I've done it. But like with any device, it can be beaten to death. So, be gentle.

I haven't linked the offending blog here because I don't want to pick on it. (Suffice to say, it was from a massively popular site you might have read today.) What its writer did happens so often that isolating one piece would be beside the point. 

What I'm protesting is writing that distracts from itself. Flourishes should enhance what is being said, not draw attention away from it. I can barely remember what that blog was about (and I actively searched for its topic, so that's saying something), but the obnoxious overuse of cutesy second- and third-person sure stuck. 

So, we should think of a better way to do this. Ian thanks you.

No comments: