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Depending on the person using the nosism different uses can be distinguished:
The royal we or pluralis majestatis
The editorial we
The editorial we is a similar phenomenon, in which an editorial columnist in a newspaper or a similar commentator in another medium refers to themself as we when giving their opinion. Here, the writer casts themself in the role of a spokesperson: either for the media institution that employs them, or more generally on behalf of the party or body of citizens who agree with the commentary.
Similar to the editorial we, pluralis modestiae is the practice common in mathematical and scientific literature of referring to a generic third person by we (instead of the more common one or the informal you):
- By adding four and five, we obtain nine.
- We are thus led also to a definition of "time" in physics. – Albert Einstein
We in this sense often refers to "the reader and the author," since the author often assumes that the reader knows and agrees with certain principles or previous theorems for the sake of brevity (or, if not, the reader is prompted to look them up).
The patronizing we
The patronizing we is sometimes used in addressing instead of you, suggesting that the addressee is not alone in their situation, that "I am with you, we are in this together." This usage is emotionally non-neutral and usually bears a condescending, ironic, praising, or some other connotation, depending on an intonation: "Aren't we looking cute?" This is sometimes employed by health care workers when addressing their patients; for example, "How are we feeling today?"
The non-confrontative we
In distinction to the patronizing we is the non-confrontative we used in T–V languages such as Spanish where the phrase ¿Cómo estamos? (literally, "How are we?") is sometimes used to avoid both over-familiarity and over-formality among near-peer acquaintances. In Spanish, the indicative "we" form is also often used instead of the imperative for giving instructions, such as in recipes: batimos las claras a punto de nieve (we beat the egg whites until stiff).
- Oxford English Dictionary, Compact Edition, 1989, p. 1945
- "A.Word.A.Day – nosism". Retrieved 11 January 2008.
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4 ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 1994. p. 30. ISBN 1557982414.
- Blanpain, Kristin (2008). Academic Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences: A Resource for Researchers. Leuven: Voorburg. p. 43.
- Wallwork, Adrian (2014). User Guides, Manuals, and Technical Writing: A Guide to Professional English. New York: Springer. p. 153.
- Goldbort, Robert (2006). Writing for Science. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 18.