The Two-Letter Word That Speaks With Authority: The Royal We

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.


Queen of England at William and Mary College

Queen of England at William and Mary College

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.”

There’s the:

  • 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)

Five Books Every Blogger Should Read or Own

Writers need to read if they want to improve. We learn, we borrow, we’re influenced, and in some cases, we steal.

Whether you’re a blogging veteran or wet-behind-the-ears rookie, there are certain books that will give you the knowledge, insight, and ability to be an effective blogger.

I am always reading books, sometimes in my industry, sometimes outside (my favorites are Christopher Moore humor novels and British murder mysteries), and trying to learn some of the techniques these writers use.

I have five books that I think every blogger should own, or at least read, if they want to improve their writing and become a better blogger.

These five books vary in industry and focus. They may tell you how to blog, how to write, or how to spell. But these are the five books that I have found to be the most valuable in my own professional blogging career.

  • Corporate Blogging for Dummies: My good friend, Douglas Karr (@douglaskarr), and Chantelle Flannery wrote this tome for corporate bloggers everywhere. And while the title suggests it’s for corporate bloggers, anyone who wants to be a blogger can learn from this one. It talks about why blogging is important, what tools are available, and even how to write blog posts.
  • The AP Stylebook: I’ve long maintained that blogging should follow AP Style when it comes to settling confusing questions of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. After all, we’re becoming citizen journalists, so we should follow journalistic style. The AP Stylebook can answer odd and esoteric questions, like the “proper” abbreviation of state names (AP style does not use the two letter postal abbreviations), whether to capitalize job titles (you don’t, unless you’re referring to the President of the United States), and even whether to use an Oxford comma (they don’t, but I think they’re horribly wrong about this one.)
  • Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing: (affiliate link) I am a regular listener of Mignon Fogarty’s (@GrammarGirl) “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips” podcast, and recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their grammar and punctuation usage. Her book on Better Writing is also a must for anyone who wants to improve their writing mechanics, and avoid the little nagging errors that are so tiny but seem to throw everyone into a terrible tizzy. (I’m also a fan of the A Way With Words show on NPR/podcast, but they don’t have a book out. Plus, I made Grammar Girl’s “Wordsmiths” Twitter list, which I’m very proud of.)
  • Ernest Hemingway’s short stories: If you want to learn how to write with punch and power, read Hemingway. Especially his short stories. Especially anything with Nick Adams (Big Two-Hearted River). It has that punchy, short dramatic style that tells you how to craft short sentences that carry a lot of impact. Hemingway cut his teeth at the Kansas City Star in 1917, learning the style that made him the most recognized writer of his day. While some of his language and ideas are definitely from the early 1900s, his writing style is still something to study and learn from.
  • Once More Around the Park

  • Roger Angell’s Once More Around the Park: Roger Angell is the baseball writer for The New Yorker, and the master of the long meandering sentence. If Hemingway is a boxer, writing short, punchy sentences, Roger Angell is the old dude doing tai chi in the park on a warm Sunday morning, moving slowly but fluidly, and never stopping until he has achieved inner peace and gotten a low-impact workout in at the same time. Angell’s descriptions of baseball games, baseball fans, and even the parks is something even the non-fan will enjoy. It’s a book I definitely recommend reading, whether you’re a baseball fan or not. While the fan will appreciate his explanation of the games and the names of the fan’s childhood, the writer will appreciate the images Angell is able to conjure up, and the ease at which he writes long, smart sentences that carry the sounds and smells of a faraway day.
  • What are some of your favorite books for writers and bloggers? Are there any that you recommend? Any that you would stay away from? Leave a comment and let’s hear from you.