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Constructing the identity of an advice-giver in an American internet advice column.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  • Sebastian Hoffmann
  • Miriam A. Locher
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>01/2006
<mark>Journal</mark>Text and Talk
Issue number1
Number of pages38
Pages (from-to)67-104
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This paper is a contribution to research on the expression of expert advice-giving (e.g., Heritage and Sefi 1992; Silverman et al. 1992). We present a linguistic analysis of the ways in which the identity of the fictional expert advisor Lucy emerges in an Internet advice column run by professional health educators as part of a university health service. In discourse-analytical close readings of 280 question–answer records, we identify and discuss seven recurring strategies (the advisor's name, self-reference and use of address terms; expert information-giving; giving options and making readers think; the choice of vocabulary; offering opinions; the use of empathy; the display of humor), which together contribute to Lucy's voice as an expert advice-giver if the readers repeatedly access the question–answer exchanges. This emerging identity is in line with the site's mission to provide information designed to facilitate independent and responsible decision processes and corresponds to an ideal of nondirectiveness, as also identified in the literature on other advisory settings (He 1994; Sarangi and Clarke 2002; Vehviläinen 2003). The constructed identity of Lucy thus makes ‘Lucy Answers’ an attractive site to (re)turn to for advice and complements the other services provided by the health educators.