How many first-person references can you count in this Rod Dreher bit of tedium? “I think.” “I believe.” “I’m not.” “Call me sentimental.” “My grandmother …”
Opinion differs about how often to use the first person pronoun in various genres of writing. But its overuse in opinion writing is a cardinal sin.
You may abuse “I” when the passive-form alternative is too clumsy. Or, when the writer has earned the right to, because of his relevance to the story. (There is no good reason for Dreher to insert himself in practically every other sentence here.)
To get a sense of how bad someone’s writing is count the number of times he deploys the Imperial “I” on the page. Dreher is very bad indeed. He is like a dripping tap. Half of this diarrhetic post could have been cut.
A good editor would have removed superfluous phrases like, “It’s strange, actually.” There are many like it: the aforementioned “call me sentimental” and “It seems to me.”
The American Conservative’s attitude to editing is decidedly un-conservative.
There are some redeeming observations in “Duty, Dishonor, & The South,” but they’re lost in the wishy-washy meandering narrative of a poor writer.
UPDATE (8/27): Noonan is bad (always has been), but not as awful as Dreher. She’s effective in her messy emotionalism. He’s not.