Lately I’ve noticed more and more use of the pronoun “I” at the beginning of sentences in social media posts. It’s a common pronoun and one that’s not easy to avoid. But…what are you telling your readers when you are constantly talking about yourself, when you START each sentence with “I” or “My?”
This article is not meant to put anyone down. The only intention is to draw your attention to the problem. And that goes for my use of the pronouns, too. It’s been said over and over, when you write it down the chances of remembering it are better. This article is meant to help all of us.
So many times when rereading my own writing, I’ve had to eliminate that one-letter-word. A good writer will take the time to do that. Whether you’re writing a novel or simply making a comment on social media, you don’t want to come off as full of yourself. It’s worth the time to reword your sentences.
On the other hand, if you are attempting to make a character in your story appear to be self-centered, into a narcissist, or show that he or she doesn’t care about anyone else but self, this is a perfect way to bring it out. When I want the reader to know the character is a selfish, self-centered person, I’ll start the majority of their sentences with the words “I” or “My.” The man or woman is not interested in anyone else but him or herself and what they want.
If you’re writing a story in first person, you’ll naturally use the words “I” or “My” often at the beginning of sentences. That’s not what I’m talking about here, though. What I’m talking about is authors (or anyone else) who make comments in social media using “I” to start almost every sentence. Dozens of them, along with the words “my” or “me,” in only a paragraph or two. Have they gotten so used to their first-person writing that they cannot communicate any other way? Is it all about you? If it is, I guess that’s okay.
Back when I was in school (yes, ancient history here), we were taught to never start a sentence with “I” or “My” when you’re not the subject of what’s being said. That’s true in almost every case.
To show you what I’m getting at, here are some sentences starting with the offensive pronoun (lol) and the changes made to avoid the I/Me/My issue.
I love to talk about animals and birds. (It’s all about what “I” love.)
Animals and birds are two subjects I love to talk about. (The subject is now centered on the Animals and birds.)
I should have asked if the shirt came in red before asking the clerk if they had more. (Self-incriminating ?)
Before the clerk went to find more, I should have asked if they had it in red. (Now the concern is on the possible inconvenience of the clerk.)
I had friends I wanted to visit for Christmas this year.
This year at Christmas, I wanted to visit friends.
I didn’t answer my cell when it rang.
When my cell rang, I didn’t answer.
My dinner was delayed because the power went out.
When the power went out, my dinner was delayed.
I don’t think you’ll be too unhappy when you see the surprise I have for you.
When you see the surprise I have for you, I don’t think you’ll be too unhappy.
When you put yourself last, it seems to sound better. The emphasis isn’t on you. Now that doesn’t mean you can never use the personal pronouns at the beginning of the sentence. Sometimes it sounds better if you do. Here are some samples.
I’m sorry I’m late.
I can tell you’ve been worried, but everything’s okay.
I’m pulling into the driveway
I’m in the back of the kitchen.”
I’m happy to see you too.
In these cases, I think the emphasis should be on self to show the emotion involved.
Again, this article is not to put anyone down or to say that someone who constantly uses personal pronouns to start their sentences is an egomaniac or narcissist. They probably do it more out of habit. But we as writers don’t want our readers to think negatively about our writing, so let’s try to avoid using these words at the beginning of our sentences. Let’s get into the practice of rewording, whether you’re writing a novel, writing a letter, or making a comment on social media.
Just my opinion.