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Campaign for "i" instead of "I"

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Contrary to what your school teacher told you, there is no grammatical reason for capitalizing the word “I”. The practice crept into literature only gradually at a time when ideas of the self and individuality began to be seen as more important than those of community. Prior to the 14th century “I” was consistently written in lower case as “i”, and no-one had any problems with it.

 English is the only major language that capitalizes the word for “I”. All others use lower-case letters to denote the first person singular, and some even capitalize the first letters of their word for “you” as a sign of respect (placing you above “I”, out of politeness).

Capitalization is associated with importance and superiority, as with capital cities, capital ideas and, indeed, Capitalism.

If we capitalize the word “I”, and not “you”, we are implying that the person we are writing to is in an inferior position to the person writing. Capitalization of “i” is a symbol of our egocentricity, of superiority of self over others, an attitude that overflows and informs our relations with others in English-speaking societies. If you don’t believe me, try this experiment. Make efforts to write “i” instead of “I” and “you” as “You” for a whole week and feel the psychological shift of perspective in your mind. It is strong and powerful.

We live in an individualistic culture. In the interests of equality (and politeness) the words for “you” and for “I” should be on an equal footing. Both should be written in lower-case letters, or both should be written in higher case.

So be a revolutionary. Ignore what your school teacher told you and insist on using “i” in all your personal e-mails and written communications. It is progressive to do so. And if you think you will be laughed at for doing so, think of adding a postscript to your communications to the effect that you promote the use of “i” over “I” in the interests of equality and fairness.

 Sign the petition to make “i” acceptable in written English to denote the first person singular in all English literature.



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