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I am wondering if the esteemed members of this forum can help me with these questions, which have bothered me for a long time and are what have brought me to this forum.

One thing I struggle to understand and work with is the use of the "editorial we." I am a copyeditor and proofreader, and I have a client who consistently likes to use the first-person plural voice for his works.

I have asked my colleagues, and I got mixed, unclear answers.

Here are a few examples:

  • We will be able to feel magnificent light in our souls...

Does "souls" have to agree with "our"? Should it not be "soul"?

  • The chair or pillow may not be so comfortable, our kids may get rowdy, our spouse may need our help with this and that...

Here, I have no issue with "our kids," because a person can certainly have more than one child. But should "spouse" be plural like "our" and "kids"?

  • It is a constant issue that we must face our entire lives.

"Entire" here does not seem to fit with "lives." But then "our entire life" does not seem to be correct as the singular "life" does not agree with the plural pronoun "our."

I would be grateful to learn more about the proper use of the "editorial we" in this regard and to hear suggestions on how to deal with this issue.

Thank you all in advance.

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The editorial "we" is often used in formal or professional writing to represent a collective viewpoint, even if only one person is involved. Here are some insights into your specific examples:

  1. "We will be able to feel magnificent light in our souls."

    • In this case, using "our souls" is appropriate. The use of "our" implies a collective experience, suggesting that the feeling of magnificent light is shared among the group. So, the plural "souls" is consistent with the plural pronoun "our."
  2. "The chair or pillow may not be so comfortable, our kids may get rowdy, our spouse may need our help with this and that."

    • You are correct in your interpretation. "Our kids" is fine because it implies more than one child. However, "our spouse" might sound a bit odd since it's more common to use the singular form, "our spouse," unless the context specifies that you are talking about multiple spouses. So, it would be more standard to say, "our spouse may need help with this and that."
  3. "It is a constant issue that we must face our entire lives."

    • This construction is acceptable. The use of "our entire lives" is idiomatic and generally accepted in English. While "entire" is singular, it's often used in conjunction with the plural "lives" to convey the idea that the issue persists throughout the duration of each person's life within the collective "we."

In general, when using the editorial "we," make sure that the pronouns and nouns agree in number, and consider whether the context implies a singular or plural interpretation. Additionally, be mindful of idiomatic expressions that may not strictly follow grammatical rules but are accepted in common usage. If the use of the editorial "we" feels awkward or confusing, consider rephrasing the sentence to make it more straightforward and clear while still maintaining a professional tone.

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