If you’re trying to achieve a sense of authority and credibility with you’re writing, there’s one little word you can use to convey that feeling, without ever actually stating it.
This week’s Grammar Girl (Mignon Fogarty) podcast, The Royal “We”, focuses on all the different usages of the first person plural of the word “we.”
- Royal We, which the Queen uses;
- Editorial We, which editorials will often employ to refer to a publication’s leadership;
- Political We, which politicians use to refer to their campaign, and later their administration;
- Urban We, which refers to Fogarty’s finding them in the Urban Dictionary; and,
- Nanny Narrator, which a doctor might use (“how are we feeling today?”)
But there’s also the “We’re In It Together (WIIT) We,” which didn’t make Fogarty’s list, but I’m a big fan of.
Fogarty even uses it herself in the narrative:
Point of view signals the writer’s stance toward the information or events he or she is describing. We usually describe literary point of view as “the first-person” (the confessional I, the inclusive we, or the royal we), “the second-person” (the informal “you,” or the implied “you” in the bossy imperative mood) and “the third-person” (the objective he, she, it or they, the starchy “one”).
Did you see it? “We usually describe literary point of view…” Who is “we” here?
It’s the author and the reader. It’s you and me. The implication is that you and I agree. That right thinking people — that’s me, because I’m espousing this point of view, and you, because I want you to feel smart and special — believe this and do this regularly. Not like those people who are completely wrong-headed, nasty, and never call their mothers on their birthdays.
We, who are so knowledgeable about literary points of view, use these terms to describe them.
This WIIT We pulls the reader in and makes them feel like they’re on your side. It’s one thing to speak with that “Voice of God” tone, where the writer never uses “I” or “me,” but rather relay information as if it’s been handed down by God.
But it’s entirely another thing to put your arm around the reader’s shoulder and whisper in his or her ear, “I’ve got this cool idea, and I want to share it with you.” It’s almost empowering to the reader. It lets them know that if you’re right, then by definition, they’re right too, because they agree with you.
It’s a subtle, but powerful secret that can boost the level of your writing, without making any drastic changes, or even altering your regular writing voice.
If you want to add some authority and credibility to your writing, try sprinkling in the WIIT We a few times, and see if that makes a difference.
We believe one will be pleasantly surprised.
Photo credit: Physicist Erin (Flickr, Creative Commons)