Stop Saying “I Feel Like”

One of the many challenges I face as a beginning writer (I can still claim novice status, particularly when making novice mistakes) is the issue of how temporal to be. “Temporal” often means “temporary.” Who knows how long LOL or awesome will last? And, do you really want to date your writing? Then there’s the more complex issue … vocabulary and usage reflect a character’s expressed personality, which is a function of the time and place. “Cool, daddy-o” doesn’t work in a piece set in the 1890’s. Certainly, leave out y’know, like and other limping conjunctions and fillers that are common in conversation … except maybe occasionally, as linguistic spice.  That part I got.

Less obvious is the subtle change discussed in a New York Times opinion piece,“Stop Saying ‘I Feel Like’ ” by Molly Worthen. She notes, “imperfect data that linguists have collected indicates (sic) that ‘I feel like’ became more common toward the end of the last century. In North American English, it seems to have become a synonym for ‘I think’ or ‘I believe’ only in the last decade or so. Languages constantly evolve … But make no mistake: ‘I feel like’ is not a harmless tic. George Orwell put the point simply: ‘If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.’ The phrase says a great deal about our muddled ideas about reason, emotion and argument.”

So, possibly irritating phrases (such as) “I feel like” don’t get expunged because the help define the characters inner self?  The next big question:  “I feel like” is like fingernails on a blackboard to me, but does it describe a character’s state of mind to my reader?  Am I justifying not including it because I am, after all, an English major living on a higher plane of language?  Is that higher plane really an affectation?

No more questions.  Start, like, writing!



2 thoughts on “Stop Saying “I Feel Like”

  1. Here is one of my favorite David Wiffen songs (there are several); it was also covered by Tom Rush. Actually, like several Tom Rush recordings, the Rush version was released before the author released his own recording. It uses the phrase, “I feel like” to offer an interesting simile .

    The only time we got to see David Wiffen perform live was in the late 60’s when he was with the Canadian group, 3’s a Crowd, which also featured Trevor Veitch, a guitarist who later worked with Tom Rush. Wiffen has one of my favorite deep baritones which he also used to great effect on “More Often Than Not,” a song that I performed for several years in the early 70’s.

    • “Feel like some old engine// I don’t have no driving wheel” You’re right about that. Allow me to adjust my overly general comment to exclude “feel like” used in fine metaphors.

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