Editorial 'we'

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Academics often object to the first person in writing - students should avoid using 'I' in their assignments. One way of avoiding it is to use the first person plural - 'we'.

This is known as the editorial we because of its use in editorial articles (the 'leaders') in broadsheet newspapers. It is designed to suggest that the opinions expressed are not just the ideas of one individual, but are the considered opinion of the entire staff of the newspaper. (The student in Higher Education should be careful not to give the impression that any ideas expressed are purely her or his own. In Higher Education, you are supposed to be learning to express balanced judgement, and draw on a wide range of knowledge. You are not supposed to be expressing personal views - though these may be appropriate in some assignments.)

Although it is very worthy in its aims, it is better, in AWE's view, not to use the editorial we: it makes the writer sound old and pompous. This may be one of the aims of young people trying to enter the graduate world and be taken seriously as employable adults; but AWE does not think it should be one of their aims. In many cases, the editorial we is fundamentally dishonest. It suggests that the writer is a committee - which is not true, except in a few cases of group work (when the word we is fully justified) - although it is how the editorials of broadsheet papers are initially drafted and prepared.

In academic work, it seems preferable to use the third person, clumsy as it often is. See also royal we.

The editorial we is a way of avoiding using 'I' in academic writing. It is a convention that the editor of a volume or periodical should attempt to appear more authoritative by using the plural form of the first person ("we"), rather than the singular ("I"). This convention applies whether the volume or periodical has one or more than one editor. It was nearly universal in the 19th century; nowadays, it is not absolute, and many editors do not follow it.

Similar phenomena are also called the authorial 'we' and the royal 'we'. See also first person.