King John

On a semi-hypothetical basis, I emailed a couple of native English speaking friends to ask them what they thought the correct move would be in the following situation:

Let’s say I have discovered a new reaction. Let’s say no one else was involved. Let’s say that in my current position, I have no supervisor. Let’s say I want to publish the results. How do I then phrase the damn manuscript, as the soul author? The “we” concept is buried so deep inside of us, especially organic synthetic chemists. So:

a) “We”? (cf. Majestic plural)
b) “I”?
c) Avoid personal pronouns altogether?

One of my sharp-tongued friends, who for the time being shall remain anonymous, replied:

Newton wrote in first person singular. So did Einstein. The ACS Style Guide recommends (in vain) first person singular or plural, but organic chemists, not inorganic nor physical, always write with affectation and use pretentious diction, third person, and the passive voice, because when you have nothing intelligent to say and your bland research is pedestrian and predictable, the best stratagem is to bury your arguments in vagueness with the passive voice, pad your sentences with extra syllables and grandiloquent, loquacious phrases (case in point, this sentence), and shirk responsibility for the insignificant work to a group of people who didn’t actively do the work (third person, passive voice). They sophisticate a bicarb work-up and murder the English language. You would be the sole and soul author if you used first person, singular, because all the other schleps aren’t.


4 Responses to Sole authorship: Majestic plural, first person singular or passive voice?

  1. milkshake says:

    The last sentence of your paper should begin with: “It had not escaped our attention that… “

  2. BRSM says:

    I’d go with I. Thanks for the link, by the way. I said to myself when I read this post the same week I started blogging, ‘I need content like that.’ And whoever your friend is, they are quite eloquent.

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