Posted by: Elizabeth Small | October 29, 2012

Dear food bloggers,

Many readers of food blogs are people who share in your love of cooking, but perhaps don’t have as much knowledge or practice. Because you are someone who puts in the time to try out all these recipes and write about the experience, they turn to you for ideas and for guidance. You become the “expert” then—at least relative to these less experienced chefs—and so you will come across times when readers ask you questions, whether it be about a certain product, a recipe adaptation when missing an ingredient, or something else.

This is an important part of your interaction with your readers as it functions both as a way of validating your credentials as a food blogger as well as forming a sense of connection with your readers, making your blog a more solid community. Oftentimes, “when people work together, they are invariably concerned not only with the task at hand but also with the manner in which they accomplish it” (Thurlow & Mroczek, p. 139). As you ‘work together’ with your readers through a recipe, simply giving the desired information may not be enough when they post questions for you; the way in which you respond to reader inquiries can help or hinder the solidarity of your food community.

A part of Goffman’s theory is the idea that “within any group interaction, social needs must be observed, and players must not impose or threaten the face of others in interaction” (p. 140). There are many ways of course to achieve this, often different politeness strategies. Let us look, for example, at this exchange between a food blogger and reader (from

The blogger gives helpful information by telling Kimberly multiple options for where she can find the unfamiliar product. This helps to confirm her expertise as a foodie. How she gives this information helps to accomplish something else as well: the blogger is being considerate of Kimberly’s public identity by not blaming her for not knowing which product the recipe was referring to. She furthermore does this by poking fun at herself, helping Kimberly ‘save face’ by turning attention away from Kimberly’s limited knowledge and instead focusing the attention on how she is an obsessively avid Biscoff user. She also softens her assertion with the wording “I just figured…” instead of something like “everyone knows by now,” because that would threaten Kimberly’s sense of membership within this particular food blog community. Being mindful of politeness strategies like these is a useful way of balancing your identity of expertise with the sense of group solidarity among your readers.



  1. A big thing I noticed in Two-Peas blogger’s response was the number of emoticons in such a short post. Like the other linguistic markers you mentioned, emoticons, namely the smiley face, are used to appear nicer, soften assertions, in this case:
    “Sorry, I’ve baked with it so much, I just figured everybody knew by now:)”

    Imagine if that weren’t placed there, the statement could have read very differently, suggesting that Kimberly maybe doesn’t keep up with Two Peas in an accusatory tone.

    Also, notice how this blogger connects her emoticons to the ends of words rather than as a separate entity. This doesn’t have to do with my prior evaluation of the purpose of the emoticon, but rather I think the stylistic choice emerges out of not wanting the emoticon to turn into an illustrated smile.

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