4

I believe that people should eat apples.

or,

People should eat apples.

Which one is best, or when to use which? Is it good to say 'I believe' or 'We believe' in public speaking or public statement?

Another example:

We believe that every user deserves good socks.

versus

Every user deserves good socks.

10

It is not necessary to qualify every statement you make. You are the one making the statement. It goes without saying that you believe the statement you are making.

However, there are specific times when it is appropriate to add "I believe".

  • You are contrasting your belief with someone else's belief, and you wish to acknowledge that the other's belief is also reasonable. "I believe it will rain tomorrow but Tom thinks it will stay dry."

  • You are making a statement in which you have less confidence than the statements that have come before. "It is roast beef for dinner, and I believe there is pie for dessert."

  • You are making an affirmation of faith: "I believe in God, the father almighty...", "I believe in love."

  • You are making a romantic or figurative affirmation: "I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows."

In short, the appropriate use of "I believe" is to signal that the statement you are making is in some way different in type or certainty from the ordinary statements you make. (Curiously, it is used both for statement you are more certain of and for statements you are less certain of, than ordinary statements.)

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  • You don't necessarily need to be contrasting someone's belief... it could be supplemental to generally accepted notions or other's beliefs. – Acumen Simulator Aug 2 '17 at 15:17
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    "Curiously, it is used both for statement you are more certain of and for statements you are less certain of, than ordinary statements." Fascinating point. The same sentence in different contexts could mean opposite things. "The stock market is very uncertain these days. But I believe the DOW will rise 5% this year." Weak. "Despite the pessimists fears, the market is booming these days. I believe the DOW will rise 5% this year." Strong. – Jay Aug 2 '17 at 18:56
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    @Jay, that illustrates one of the things I find myself repeating often: the smallest unit of meaning is not the word or the sentence, but the story. – user16226 Aug 2 '17 at 19:11
1

If your working on a piece for publishing that will attack a figure or orgainzation, "I believe" could be useful to denote that the accusation is not based in anything provable.

For example "Spider-Man is a threat and a menace" is a statement of fact. However, J. Johan Jamerson is opening himself to a massive libel suit (but not a Slander suit, as he's quick to correct Peter) because he's coloring his stories of events with his own intepretation of them. "I believe Spider-Man is a threat and a menace" is perfectly lawsuit free because J. Johna Jamerson is perfectly entitled to both hold his opinion and speak his professed opinion, no matter how untrue it is proven to be. I would say this example is close to @Mark Baker's first example, but dissimilar because as we all know, Jamerson accepts no opposition to his belief as reasonable. Quirks of the U.S. defimations laws to be sure, which are fairly loose and favor the publisher a great deal.

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  • I am not a lawyer, I'd be happy to hear from a lawyer if one is reading this, but I doubt that adding "I believe" in front of wild, unsubstantiated accusations would make you immune to a lawsuit. If it did, then everyone could always avoid libel by just adding these two magic words. – Jay Aug 2 '17 at 19:00
  • @Jay I'm not a lawyer, I just have a mad love for the 1st Amendment and read any problems that fall under it voraciously. United States does have so very liberal libel laws and they do favor the speaker more than they favor the aggrieved. For example, if I am a reporter covering someone who has yet to stand trial for murder, I must call him an "accused murder" and if I fail to use the A-word, I am reporting that he is guilty when he is most certainly not. However, if I was writing an opinion piece and said "I believe he did it" then I am offering my own personal opinion. – hszmv Aug 3 '17 at 12:23
  • @Jay The trick is of course, one of the problems with the credibility in American Journalism as it's perfectly fine to opine in headline news, so long as you make it clear it's opine and correct any factual statements when you learn of them. Consider the D.C. Beltway Sniper where it was widely reported that the perpetrator would most likely be a white man acting alone. When the perpetrators were arrested, it turned out it was two black men which caused some minor race relations questions (it was preference to hell and back that it was police opinion based prior to the arrest.). – hszmv Aug 3 '17 at 12:38
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Depending on the context, writing "I believe" can make your claim weaker. "I believe" can mean you follow a religion/faith/, or it can mean I think; in argumentative claims you sound less confident in your claim. It can also lead people to question your credentials to make such a claim.

"We believe everyone should have food."-a non-profit food bank

"I believe god will save us"-person of faith

"I believe cats are better than dogs." -argumentative essay claim

Now take out the I believe and see what happens in your mind.

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  • That's why Wikipedia calls them weasel words – paulzag Aug 2 '17 at 14:23
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    That is a feature, not a bug. Your claim should be weakened if it is an opinion and not a fact, strengthening a claim to the level of "truth" by failing to note it is only your opinion or belief is tantamount to lying: It is a construction intentionally designed to mislead your audience. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Aug 2 '17 at 15:46
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You absolutely should add "I Believe" if, without that phrase, you would be making a claim of fact that you cannot be certain is true.

Do you have scientific proof that people should eat apples for their health? Without some medical studies, you make a misleading statement to say "people should eat apples for their health", you are implicitly lying to people by implying that this is a known fact.

However, saying "I believe people should eat apples for their health" is a truthful statement if you truly believe that.

So is "I believe eating apples is a gateway to heroin use, promiscuity, harsh music and the sexualization of astronomy".

I can argue that eating apples almost never sexualizes astronomy, but I can't argue that you don't believe what you say you believe.

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  • Everyone knows that it is pomegranates that sexualize astronomy. – Jay Aug 2 '17 at 18:57
  • @Jay I know! That apples would is the obvious lie I was going for. But apples and promiscuity... We have biblical confirmation, I think. Plus, find a promiscuous girl or guy, and it is almost certain they have eaten apples. That's science! – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Aug 2 '17 at 23:54
  • @Amadeus Actually, the Bible never names the fruit and the pomegranate is believed to be the more likely candidate given historical fruit consumption in the area. Additionally, English used to take Apple to mean any generic fruit. Working against your theory of Apples not being evil, Apples are members of the Malus family which is Latin for Bad or Evil. – hszmv Aug 3 '17 at 12:34
  • @hszmv Ha! Did not know the "Malus" connection. I did know the pomegranate one, but I also know a few Bible "aficionados" that have thoroughly immunized their mental facilities against such interpretive logic based on so-called "facts" and "history." I figure they might focus on a more literal interpretation (of the English translation, of course, don't try to confuse them them with Sanskrit or Latin!) – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Aug 3 '17 at 13:10
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    @Jay Given that man wasn't supposed to eat it, that would be logical. If I tell my kid he can't have a cookie before dinner, and I found out he ate a cookie when I wasn't looking, my immediate disciplinary action isn't to give him more cookies. – hszmv Aug 3 '17 at 13:45

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