Slice of Life: I eye i

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I spent a good part of the long weekend reading and assessing short stories, the first large writing project that my sixth graders have done this school year. There were a lot of fun and interesting stories, but one thing kept sticking out for me.




You may know that I am all in support of the ways that technology and digital writing techniques and possibilities have opened up many writing opportunities for young people. Embedded media, hyperlink associations, etc. Composition is changing, and I’m fine with that. And young people are writing all the time. Writing is at the heart of most of the texting, video creating, commenting, Instagramming, status updating, etc. that they do.

Yet …

I still get frustrated by the use of “i” instead of “I” when it comes to more formal writing. It feels like one of those non-negotiables when it comes to formal writing, right?

I do mini-lessons around techniques of proofreading and of writing, and of how different formalities of writing call for different things. Lower case “i” is fine for texting with friends, I tell them, but not for formal school writing, and I show them, and explain it to them.

Still, the i persists.

It’s likely a combination of them seeing the lower case so much in other places and spaces that their eye doesn’t immediately notice it, as mine does. Immediately. When using their Google Docs accounts, the “i” is not always deemed a spell-check issue, I’ve observed. So no red squiggles appear on the screen. I don’t know why not. I also know they should not need to rely on the red squiggles for something as simple as “i” becoming “I”. Finally, we all know that proofreading is always a struggle for young writers.


Maybe there are a few ee cummings in the mix …

Peace (i mean it),

  1. I recently observed this with kids drafting on Chromebooks. I didn’t notice it as a trend, but now that you’ve alerted us, I’m sure I will.

  2. This is interesting. The lowercase “i” gets me every time, too. I love how you’ve had the conversation with your students about when it might be okay and the idea that in formal writing, it isn’t. Maybe sharing how the i instead of I distracts you from their message and meaning and would surely distract other readers too?

  3. Interestingly, third graders are also not catching “i” as much as I would like either. I wonder if this is a rule that will change over time- I doubt it, but…

  4. I’m with you. I want to see a capitalized I (for I) when I’m reading.
    Speaking of which, my daughter and I got into an argument about this last year since she started mixing her casings in Kindergarten. She began writing her name (Isabelle) with a lowercase i. It annoyed me, but it was so hard to explain to her, at the time, why it wasn’t okay in a way she could understand.

  5. I for an i, eh? 😉
    I do see the influence of texting habits dismantling all kinds of capitalization habits. Tricky to flip switch reliably between lowercase might be okay sometimes versus caps matter now. (Habits just don’t work that way!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *