The “I” syndrome: why I don’t want to be patronized


Always show respect for
your readers’ intelligence

When you read a blog post, website introduction or post on SocMed, doesn’t it just make you sick when you see words directed at you, the reader, using your own supposed thoughts expressed by the poster?

E.g. “Now, I’ve got this shiny new blog, and I’ve got all the widgets and toy-toys, but I can’t seem to get any traffic…so what am I doing wrong?” as the introductory line, followed by some patronizingly comforting words from the poster saying how if you hire them they can sort everything out while they pat you on the head?

To me this is the ultimate in sneering attempts to sell you stuff, by so-called experts with unfortunate superiority complexes.

Readers are not fooled when you try to suggest you’re inside their heads

Some bloggers and these so-called experts may feel they can wrong-foot you by instilling some insecurity in you … “I’ve paid out a lot of money for my new website but I’m not sure how to use it. What can I do?”

And in fairness to them, they could be right.

But do you really want to find that out with what amounts to words being put into your mouth, by people who think they know what your problems are and know better than you, how to solve them?

Or do you feel that these people trying to patronize you into accepting their potentially expensive solutions, should use a little less insolence and a little more respect?

Be wary of sellers who try to patronize you and make you feel insecure

Many merchants of this type, who to try to crank up your insecurities with such “spoken”  lines of yours as “I’m not sure what I should do next,” very often need  you to be insecure. Why? Because they’re insecure themselves … the only way they can justify their product or service offering is by knocking you down first so they can attempt to build you back up their way.

They adopt the patronizing “I” syndrome thinking that it gives them instant superiority over you. Ergo circumstances in which you feel at a disadvantage and therefore you must look up to them for advice, guidance, and of course the purchase of products and services.

Be warned: these people seldom offer the best advice, or the best services. Very seldom.

Where the “I” syndrome can work

Here’s an exception: FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) pages on websites and blogsites can use the “I” syndrome and in the main, get away with it.

That’s because in the case of an FAQ page you’re not actually selling … well not overtly, anyway.  So putting yourself in the questioner’s shoes when you write those questions, provided that you do it respectfully, shouldn’t cause any offence.

And if you do want to use the “I” syndrome to phrase the questions in an FAQ, please make it clear that you’re doing this purely for clarification purposes and to make the questions contrast strongly with the answers.

Whatever you do, be careful when phrasing seemingly silly questions in the “I” syndrome fashion. Phrase them in a way that acknowledges the intelligence of your readers.

Wrong way …

When I receive the (product) should I open it at the top or at the bottom?

Respectful way…

Given the (product) is so delicate, which way should I open it: by the top or the bottom?

Where else is the “I” format acceptable?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but … when the phrase or sentence is a real question or comment from a real person.

An example of this is the Agony Columns category here on HTWB, where readers mail in with questions which I then quote in the headline.

If you use this approach it’s probably a good idea to tidy up any grammar or spelling mistakes, but otherwise don’t tinker with the question: respect the original writer’s way of asking it.

Always, always respect your readers and customers

No matter how tempting it is to patronize them to “cut them down to size” so they feel they can’t get by without your services, forget it.
Respecting their intelligence is the long-term, secure way to keep them loyal to you … and away from your competitors.

How do you feel about the way some bloggers and online writers use the “I” syndrome?

Please share!

photo credit: EDD07 via photopin cc




  1. *Gulp* – pops to check blog posts… I have an awful feeling that I may be guilty of this in places. Great post as ever, Suze.

    • I wouldn’t worry too much Babs! Your use of the “I” syndrome isn’t patronizing, so it works OK. It’s when you attempt to talk down to your readers in this way that it comes across so badly, even if you’re trying to be amusing.