Objectivity versus Subjectivity in Writing

Posted by Spighterman
Jul 07 2010

When you look at a topic area from an objective viewpoint, you are looking at it as an outsider or "third person". Like a "fly on the wall", you are simply reporting what you see.  Alternatively, taking a look at an instance from a subjective standpoint, the writer inserts his or her own interpretations into the mix.  Often times, as writers, we struggle when determining when to use objectivity versus subjectivity.  The following is a concise guide to help facilitate your decision:

When to Use Objectivity/Subjectivity

Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine when and where to use objectivity or subjectivity. Even proficient and experienced journalists sometimes allow subjectivity to seep into their impartial reporting (and it’s usually the cause of a barrage of letters to the editor).  Therefore, it’s critical to learn when not to editorialize, especially when writing non-fiction pieces.  For instance, in a human interest story, it might be appropriate to add subjectivity to the mix. After all, the author is trying to evoke a certain human response from his or her audience, and one of the best ways to do that is to take the audience on a journey from his or her viewpoint.  However, in a news piece about a local fire or other emergency, it’s best to stick to objectivity. Obtain quotes from experts, but leave out your own personal opinions, as they’ll only clutter the article.  Of course, sometimes there are "gray" areas where either subjective or objective viewpoints could be acceptable.   As an example, a writer might have to make a "judgment call" if he or she is given the assignment to put together an article about an historic locale. Does the editor want a critique of the place? Or is he or she simply interested in providing the readership with a general guide of the site? At times like these, it is always best for the writer to ask his or her supervisor for guidance before beginning his or her research.

So as a writer, how do we know when it is the right or wrong time to be objective or subjective.  Well, in most cases, this decision is based upon the situation as well as the amount of knowledge that the writer possesses on the subject at hand.

Right or Wrong?

Obviously, neither objectivity nor subjectivity is "better". Both are useful in their own rights, but they must be used selectively. To become a more competent writer, you need to know when to leave your own opinions at the door and when they are necessary for the tone of your article or essay. Rest assured that as you grow as a writer and become more comfortable, you’ll find yourself naturally gravitating toward the best one to use for the piece on which you’re working.

Source: http://www.explorewriting.co.uk/ObjectivityAndSubjectivity.html

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