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"I" and "Me" in column writing

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by DTSEPS, May 14, 2012.


    DTSEPS New Member

    I'm new to the board, but in my short time reading critiques of submitted items — columns, specifically — in the workshop, I've seen much in regard to not making the column about yourself, or limiting the interjection of "I" in the column. I've been doing this for almost a decade, yet had never heard this "rule" until I logged on here for the first time. Moreover, I've essentially (yet unknowingly) gone completely against that rule for my entire career and somehow ended up with several state awards for column writing to my credit.

    I just want to get more opinions on the issue, and see why people feel one way or the other about the topic.
  2. Pilot

    Pilot Well-Known Member

    Heh, I do it all the time, too, though I know people on here hate it.

    The way I justify it is I write lots and lots and lots of stories that don't have my point of view or perspective. If I want to tell a really good story, I write a feature. If I want to say what happened in a game, I write a gamer. My column is different from those kinds of things, and I write it as such. It's a chance to look at things from a different perspective, and that's what I try to do. It frequently means going first person.

    All that said, I agree "I" can be pulled out, a piece often benefits. I don't think it can always be pulled out, though, and I don't think it makes a piece bad.
  3. young-gun11

    young-gun11 Member

    I do it as well. My feeling is a column is my own opinion. If the piece is about an experience I had, how else will I convey my perspective?
  4. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Ah, the old debate.

    The "I" takes the power away from the writer. It reminds the reader: Hey's it's just one writer here.

    What's stronger?

    I think Joe stinks.


    Joe stinks.

    One conveys a thought that belongs to one person.

    The other is an argument held up for people adopt as their own.
  5. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty New Member

    i've never had a problem using the word i in a column as it works nicely setting the table in telling a story about another person, people or situation ... and christ, you're going to be giving your opinion about another person, people or situation.

    on the flip side, i've seen people abuse the shit out of it and basically center every column around themselves, which makes for some pretty pathetic reading.
  6. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    I think It's stronger without, as Alma says.

    Also hate the one-sentence-paragraph columns. Truly a sin.
  7. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    They can work just fine as ledes, quick turns in the column or kickers. It depends on what you want the reader to do.
  8. Liut

    Liut Well-Known Member

    "Me?" Don't recall ever seeing it in a column.
  9. Mystery Meat II

    Mystery Meat II Well-Known Member

    There's a big difference between using the first-person where it relates to the content itself ("I remember interviewing Billy Bob Daniels after his Mountaineers lost in the Hoot'n Holler Conference semifinals, and I'm still getting chew spit stains out of my Chuck Taylors to this day") and using it to remind us that it is in fact the column writer who is writing the column ("In my personal opinion, I think the Charlotte Bobcats are not a good team"). Used with finesse, there's nothing wrong with it. Used mainly for identification, well, you might as well be writing a letter to the editor or a Bleacher Report entry.
  10. young-gun11

    young-gun11 Member

  11. JPW

    JPW New Member

    Completely agree. I have read plenty of beautiful pieces that include the first person. I do always make sure to go back and read each instance I use "I" or "Me" in a profile and see if I can make that sentence or sentiment stronger by rewording.
  12. Precious Roy

    Precious Roy Active Member

    My rule of thumb is pretty much the same. If it's an opinion of something then I steer away from the letter. However, if it's a personal piece about a personal experience, you can't dodge the bullet.
    We had a guy do a three-part diary about attending a high school basketball referee camp because the state refs were all over him this year after a column he wrote. Had he not done it in first-person I really think it would have stunk to high heaven. However, him going full bore and talking about his experience of going there and the pains and trials he went though personally made it some of the best stuff he has put in the paper for us.
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