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Television Land: Avoiding the Editorial “We” — 11 Comments

  1. I truly believe it depends upon what you are sharing with the reader. If it is a subject; that for example, connects to life’s experiences (in which ‘we’ all have in common) then it’s normal to state ‘we’ for your readers to connect with you — the writer.

    • “We” is acceptable in some circumstances and not in others. Any hard and fast rule for writing will ultimately crumble. But when “we” asks for approval or assumes agreement without asking, it generates angst.

      If I were to write:

      “As authors, we agree that every sentence should end with a preposition.”

      You would (hopefully) feel I had overstepped my bounds.

      And if I was to ask, “what do you think?” at the end of this comment, you’d probably conclude I wasn’t very secure in my own convictions.

      Make sense?

  2. You seem to think that use of “we” really means “we”, when in fact its use in writing is a traditional narrative convention. When a writer says, “as we saw in chapter one…” the writer is not literally claiming that the reader is part of an actual plural group. It is merely a manner adopted in writing. Do you begin a letter with “”Dear X” despite never having met X, who thus cannot possibly be dear to you? Of course you do, because it’s a stylistic convention. It’s not much different. Language and literary conventions have passed down the years and are not subject to the kind of logic you seem to wish to impose upon them.

    • It’s not a religion; just a leaning. Use any form you want, but do it consciously. Again, see the highlighted examples in paragraph 1. And if you disagree, we can still be friends. Most style problems have less to do with right vs. wrong than they do with automatic vs. well-considered word choices. Cutesy requests for agreement from the reader annoy me. I’m sure some’o’y’all out there in the blogosphere feel the same way. : )

  3. This is just plain silly. It’s like saying Shakespeare should not have written soliloquies. It is perfectly appropriate for a writer to address readers within the text if the style of the text permits it. This is what one might call a false absolute rule, appropriate only to some books, not to all.

    • If I believed in absolute rules, I’d agree with you. I prefer to advocate for awareness and conscious decision-making about writing style. When I used to edit academic papers, I often cautioned students not to use editorial “we” when the intended reader was one of their professors. It is for a thesis committee to decide if a graduate degree candidate qualifies as a “we.”To imply that status already exists is an unintended affront. See the highlighted examples in the beginning of my article. To me, they weaken the writing and add a timid element.

  4. Hey Dave… long time no see.
    But… that’s not the “editorial we”, is it? You have to be an editor or something for that.
    Mostly people use the “authorial we”… “When we run out of options, we become violent”, is legitimate…. it means “people”. It might mean “men” (We have no idea what women want) or “Americans” (We are supposed to be a democracy) or man other constructions.
    There’s also the “patronicized we”… “Well, aren’t we proud of overselves?” “Well don’t we look nice in our new booties?”

    • Howdy Linton, I’m not objecting to the use of “we,” in general. As you correctly point out, “we” can refer to humanity in general. But if someone asks me, “Can you and Linton show up at the tractor pull tonight?” If I answer, “Sure! We’ll be right over.” I’ll have answered on your behalf without having the authority to do so. In a literary sense, it’s the same thing to assume or imply that your reader agrees, likes, or understands your point. The reader gets disenfranchised; he has no way to say, “Sorry, Dave. I already have plans to attend a corn shucking bee.”

  5. It happens in real life, too. I can’t stand when someone asks me “How are we doing today?” I have no idea how they’re doing. I could go on about how they look, or their grammatical clumsiness, but I really don’t know how THEY’RE doing. And how I’m doing, may not even be any of their business!

    If we’re working together as a team on something, then it’s appropriate to ask “How are we doing?” But other than that, if you feel the need to know how I’m doing, then just ask ME, not WE.