Rhetorical Positioning

As we discussed earlier today in class, the first person (or lack thereof) can be used to interesting effects in writing. Even on a topic that is more or less the same, a simple change in the complexion of pronouns can really change the general feel of prose. In going through and trying this myself, it became immediately apparent that utilizing both techniques while covering the same subject matter produces two entirely different effects. On one hand we have a completely first person written account, where everything produced by the author is directed as “I” or “you.” On the other hand, we have the complete opposite of this, where neither the writer nor the reader is directly included into the writing.

It is not often that you see writing conducted entirely on one end of this spectrum, and perhaps with good reason. Each technique has its own advantages and drawbacks that are not mutually exclusive. In truth, a balance of each is needed to counteract the negative side-effects that the other produces. An entirely first person written account is extremely effective in implicating the reader. When an author consistently uses “I” and “you,” the reader has no choice but to face the writer’s call to action. This can be extremely effective to an extent; however, it all comes at the cost of rhetorical positioning. The overuse of “I” and “you” effectively creates a situation where the author come off as entirely opinionated, and thus invites the reader to question the author’s claims. This, in essence, leaves little room to validate otherwise very specific and directed proclamations.

On the completely opposite end of the spectrum, where the author refuses to use either “I” or “you,” the author loses a sense of implication but gains a more manageable rhetorical position. The problems that arose with the overuse of “I” and “you” are eliminated in this instance, but the general statements that are required to do this do not have a call to action or any real implication for the reader. Indeed, even though this style reads as more on par with colloquial writing, the many generalities used in avoiding first person pronouns creates rather vague writing. At times, as I critiqued my two distinctly separate works, I found myself asking, “Who exactly am I trying to talk about? Why does any of this matter to the reader?” The culmination of all of this created a situation where the writing itself was no better off than in its first person rendition.

Whereas one style of writing here created a situation that came off a little too strong, the other did not come off as strong enough. Both distinct styles had their own advantages, but in examining both a little further, I found that the most effective style of writing probably falls somewhere right in between the two extremes.


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