Pronouns are used to replace nouns in writing. Some of them may refer to non-specific objects and people. For instance, such pronouns are “each,” “some,” “everybody,” etc. Personal pronouns are more specific — these are such words as “I,” “we,” “you,” “she,” “he,” etc. When writing college essays, as well as other writing assignments and academic papers, you should be very careful with your pronouns. The academic tone of writing should be impersonal and objective. Avoiding personal pronouns in academic writing is not just a tradition but one of the most important requirements that have a significant influence on your grades.
Some types of essays allow you to use personal pronouns. For example, you may write in the first person when dealing with narrative essays. However, when writing more formal papers, you should stick with an impersonal tone. Given that we use personal pronouns in informal writing and conversations all the time, many students don’t know how to write an essay without using personal pronouns. Mastering the academic style of writing may take some time. Therefore, we decided to share some useful tips that will help you make sure that your essays meet academic requirements.
How to Avoid Using Personal Pronouns
Use strong verbs and adjectives
Most essays that contain personal pronouns also have another thing in common: they are imprecise and unspecific. The reason is that if you use such words as “I” or “we,” you will deliver a subjective message and your content will tend to be one-sided. If you write “I think,” it means that you’re expressing an opinion, and academic writing is not about opinions but facts and evidence. We recommend that you express your ideas as precisely as possible, using strong verbs and adjectives. You should stay objective and support all your claims with evidence instead of writing about your opinions and assumptions.
Use a scholarly tone
Academic writing is formal and objective. When writing essays and other academic papers, you should avoid contractions, colloquialisms, clichés, and slang words. If you’re used to an informal style of conversation, you should choose a completely opposite approach when working on your academic papers. If you pay attention to your tone, you will feel less tempted to use personal pronouns and other elements of informal language.
Use formal generalizations
We often use personal pronouns when making generalizations. Here’s an example of such a generalization: “If you use personal pronouns, you’ll get a lower grade.” In this case, “you” sounds completely natural but such wording is inappropriate in the context of academic writing. A better solution would be to write “using personal pronouns can lead to receiving a lower grade.” You may also replace informal generalizations with formal ones by simply replacing “you” with “one”: “one can,” “one does,” etc. However, even when using formal generalizations, make sure to use them in moderation because the abundance of generalizations will make your essay sound awkward.
Use the passive voice
You may use personal pronouns in many types of writing but such words shouldn’t be used in academic writing. When it comes to the passive voice, the situation is the opposite: while it’s considered inappropriate in other types of writing, academic writing allows you to use it. For instance, instead of writing “I tested the hypothesis,” you can write “the hypothesis was tested.” However, you should try to use the active voice whenever you can. The excessive use of the passive voice can make your essay difficult to read and damage the overall clarity.
Replace slang with specific wording
Another way to avoid personal pronouns in academic writing is to replace all slang words with more specific phrases. We recommend that you always read and edit your essays before submitting them. First, such an approach will help you fix grammar and spelling mistakes. Secondly, this way, you’ll be able to spot informal language and replace it with better alternatives. Keep in mind that clarity should be one of your main priorities.
Imagine a non-native speaker reading your essay and think of whether or not they’ll be able to understand it. There are many alternatives to personal pronouns. For example, instead of writing “I found out,” you can write “it was determined that.” You can also replace personal pronouns with specific nouns, like “the author,” “the researcher,” “the reader,” etc.
Academic writing is different from many other styles of writing. One of the distinctive features of academic writing is the use of formal, impersonal language. We hope that our tips will help you learn how to avoid personal pronouns in your essays and other academic assignments. Make sure to read your essays before submitting them and replace any informal and inappropriate phrases with formal alternatives. Stick with an objective tone and support all of your claims with evidence. This way, it will be easier for you to avoid emotional and subjective language, making your paper more professional and less biased.