Letter to the Editor Response: Collaboration Is Good; Perspective Shift Works

Regarding Vol. 47, Issue 4 (December 2010) 

On the front page, there is a column decrying Spring registration woes. For some reason it was written by two people, yet it constantly uses “I” and “my” with no identification as to which author it is referring.  

Which person is talking? And why are two authors needed?

Tony Davis, USD Law 3L[1]


1)      Why two authors?

Collaboration is good.  As future attorneys, it is important that we develop this skill.  In our view, the fact that Christina Phan and Nicole Weil co-wrote this piece is pretty cool.  This particular story lent itself well to collaboration because many students have collective “woes” to share regarding Spring registration.  We look forward to publishing more collaborative writings in future issues.

2)      Why the shift in perspective?

We assumed this was a conscious choice by the writers.  It was certainly a conscious choice by the editors to leave it as is.  Changing every “I” to “we” didn’t seem to work in this piece—try it; you’ll see that the meaning changes in a way that detracts from the article.  Leaving the shift as is (for only three paragraphs—not “constantly”) emphasizes the overall tone of the article.  The shift from first-person singular to first-person plural works within the middle of this story—we like how the singular use is sandwiched in the middle of the plural.  The article is more of a journey through the mind of a 2L, and we know that the 2L mind can be “shifty” in general (kind of kidding).  The “I” may refer to one of the co-authors, or it may refer to a general, singular 2L. 

Either way, it works.  No grammatical rule requires a co-authored piece to include only first-person plural pronouns.  And even if one did, we at Motions understand that good writing often breaks the rules.  A shift in perspective is not something new to writing.  In fact, shifting perspective is often a conscious and effective choice that aids the literary piece.  Any reader confusion that exists is outweighed by the value of the form itself. 

Regarding your own frustration, our instinct is to suggest that you can contact the authors to see exactly who was “talking” in those paragraphs . . . but depending on your perspective of literary interpretation, that may be irrelevant.[2]

Anyway, that’s our perspective and rationale.  Thanks for reading!   

[1] Mr. Davis is referring to the following article: Christina Phan & Nicole Weil, Epic Failure: The Chaos of Spring Registration, MOTIONS, Dec. 2010, at 1, available at http://www.motionsonline.org/2010/12/01/epic-failure-the-chaos-of-spring-registration.

[2] According to a post by one of the authors (Christina Phan) on the Motions Facebook page in reply to Tony Davis’s original inquiry, the shift in perspective resulted from the collaboration itself.  Phan blamed herself because she wrote the paragraphs at issue.  She dubbed herself “the weaker chick.”  In our view, Phan’s “error” isn’t the “epic failure” she suggests.  Instead, what perhaps was originally unintentional turned into something rather effective.

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