• It’s ironic that I want to write a blog because I never enjoyed my English classes.
• I was so happy when I finished my last English class.
• I always hated writing papers in school.
• I’m nervous about writing a blog because I didn’t do well in my English classes.
The desire to write a blog seems to contradict an earlier aversion to writing in an English class. And this apparent paradox undermines the confidence of today’s blogger.
But there’s a reason why bloggers love to write, even if they hated their English classes.
In recent decades, the educational system has elevated scientific objectivism to the point where anything deemed “subjective” is considered synonymous with “inferior.” Research papers require hard facts and verifiable evidence.
Under no circumstances should a writer use the personal pronoun “I.”
Teachers penalize students with poor grades if they begin phrases with “I believe” or “I think.” They label such phrases as “subjective thinking,” which, of course, has no place in a scientific paper.
While this impersonal, objective approach may be appropriate for a scientific research paper, it impairs students from experiencing a genuine encounter with the craft of writing.
Denied their own voice, students are left with a writing experience that’s dry and lifeless.
Writing is a generative process. The act of writing generates ideas whereby the writer can explore his or her thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Through the act of writing, writers discover more about themselves by putting words and meaning to previously nebulous ideas and feelings.
Bloggers already know this to be true, even if they didn’t know what to call it.
Bloggers don’t have to ask, “May I use the personal pronoun ‘I’?” And this is why bloggers have discovered the joy of writing, even if they once hated their English classes.
Were you ever told to avoid the personal pronoun “I”?
* Thankfully, we English teachers are beginning to remedy this in our classrooms.
In fact, I had my college freshmen students start a blog as part of their writing assignments. I gave them weekly writing prompts, and they got to read and comment on their classmates’ responses to the same prompts.
Yes, they still had to write a good old-fashioned research paper with proper citations and formatting, but they also experienced the freedom that comes when writing with their own voice for an audience of their peers.
* * * * *
For anyone interested in improving their craft, I highly recommend On Writing Well by William Zinsser. He was truly a writer ahead of his time. Just read what he had to say, in 1976, about the personal pronoun “I.”
“Writers are obviously at their most natural when they write in the first person. Writing is an intimate transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity. Therefore I urge people to write in the first person: to use ‘I’ and ‘me’ and ‘we’ and ‘us.'” (20)