These are general style questions that came up while I was editing my article to change to the 3rd person voice that is preferred at Om Times. I thought it would be useful to post these questions here so they can be seen by all.

  • Using a non-gendered pronoun one/oneself sounds stiff. E.g. : "how one feels about oneself." 2nd person sounds more colloquial: "how you feel about yourself" (talking about self-esteem).
  • Gendered pronouns. What is preferred style here? E.g. "When an individual/person suffers from low self esteem, he/she/they . . . "  With the plural, you avoid the gender issue, but the resulting formulation is ungrammatical. E.g., "When an individual suffers from low self esteem, they derive little benefit from affirmations." Grammatically correct, gender neutral, but very formal: "When one suffers from low self esteem, one . . . "
  • The inclusive "we" assumes a commonality between author and audience, or a commonality among all readers that may not be correct. E.g., in my article, I address certain issues that will come up for low self esteem individuals (according to the psych research) and other issues that are relevant for high self esteem individuals. Another section distinguishes between beginning meditators and experienced meditators. So, who is "we"?

It would be helpful to receive feedback on these issues, so I (we) can be consistent in our use of third person formulations.

Thanks!!

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi, Maryjane - thank you for adding these person-related, style questions. I am sure there are other writers who may find it a little different/difficult to alter the way writing is presented. 

First, it is not an exact science, but in presenting material in article form at OMTimes (as opposed to blog forms with which many are most familiar) we seek to join the audience in the "inclusive we." The commonality is that we all do share some level of compassionate identification with others, whether or not 'self esteem' is a prominent aspect of our current existence. We are writing from a point of appreciation; maybe even from a previous experience or history of the topic. Writing from the 'inclusive we' standpoint affords our audience a shared level of understanding, if that helps. (And if our presentation does not give enough information or reference to provide understanding, perhaps it is an opening to do just that.)

In this era of increased gender questioning and fluidity, as writers we do need to be more open to various forms of identity among our audience. Again, this may not be an exact science or active aspect of everyone's existence, but in the areas of openness and inclusion, however best we can reflect multiple identities without it becoming to cumbersome, it is honorable and courteous to our readers to do that, and I hope writers approach their work with that 'common courtesy' in mind and heart. The same would hold true for persons living with a disability, or any other type of 'label' that serve to not only identify but separate us. 

So..when it comes to the gendered pronouns, it is more empowering to the writer to determine how best to present them, based on the tone of the piece one is writing. It need not feel stuffy or too formal, as we are not writing a cold, academic, fact-based tome. As part of our 'inclusion,' we can write from a welcoming sense of warmth that will hopefully steer us all into a greater sense of comfort, bottom line.

Hope this helps you and others in feeling more comfortable with this ~ Blessings! 

I'm glad you asked this - I love first person narratives that share a story AND connect readers so am always struggling with changing my writing to 3rd person. I have had feedback when using "we" indicating that the reader did NOT relate to what I was saying in that particular part of an article and so I agree that it is a tricky thing sometime. Hopefully someone will be addressing this with some suggestions!

I hope writers understand that first-person narratives have their place; however, when we select articles for the magazine we seek "inclusion." If it serves to write in that first-person narrative style, as such, for a personal blog or website, that is fine. However, for purposes of what is provided here in the community for the magazine, these are the writing styles being evaluated. 

Not everyone may resonate with a topic or piece. We all do not walk the same path. However, in writing for our readership around the world, we would like to help them see where we are coming from. This is true no matter what 'person' is used to convey the message. It speaks more from the reader's impression, however, if the individual does not relate. For purposes of presentation, it is "out there" for anyone to approach, without "exclusion." ~ Blessings! 

Thanks, Kathy and Shane for this great discussion!

I don't have any problem with striving for openness and inclusion -- I guess I was just looking for clues on how to embrace inclusiveness without sacrificing clarity. Does anyone have effective strategies to manage this tension?

I humbly ask us all to Focus on the message. It is the message, more than the messenger. ~ Blessings! 

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