Author Topic: Avoiding personal language  (Read 1975 times)


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Avoiding personal language
« on: January 25, 2014, 08:51:07 AM »
This short guide is dedicated to Avoiding personal language in academic writing!

The convention in academic writing is to write with minimal reference to yourself as an author. The reason for this lies in a tradition of needing to present your work "objectively", as the work of a dispassionate and disinterested (unbiased) researcher. Personal language is subjective and therefore may decrease the authority of the argument. Personal pronouns "I, we, our" make the reader aware of the writer's presence in the text. Judgmental words, "I believe", "I disagree", exacerbate the issue of the writer's presence in the text because the reader becomes aware of the writer's personal feelings about the argument. The use of emotive words, "repulsive", "undignified", creates text that is persuasive, increasing the subjective and personal nature of the text.

Academic writing is all about expressing opinion, yet this opinion needs to be presented as an objective, educated position based on sound evidence. Your text should provide and reference this supporting evidence. So, one of the features of academic writing is a general absence of the first person pronouns. A professional writer needs to let the assignment "speak for itself":

"I show..." becomes "The report shows..."

"I interpret the results as..." becomes "The results indicate..."

Another way to avoid the first person is to use the passive voice construction:

"We administered the questionnaire..." becomes "The questionnaire was administered...";

"I surveyed the literature" becomes "The literature was surveyed".

At the same time, overusing of passive voice is also a style mistake, which should be avoided.