1st vs. 3rd person
Pronouns are a set of words that replace nouns. They are used to make your work less complicated and less repetitive. Examples of pronouns include:
- First person: I, we, me, us
- Second person: you
- Third person: he, she, it, they, him, her, them
Traditional academic writing discourages the use of first or second person (‘I’, ‘we’, ‘you’, etc.). This is because it does not sound objective. Instead, it sounds as though you have only a very limited, personal view of the issue you are discussing, rather than a view of the broader picture. First and second person pronouns can also make your work less concise.
Academic training requires students to consider all aspects of a topic, from a range of viewpoints. It also requires students to state general claims and then prove each claim by providing solid evidence from a range of sources.
However, this is not a hard rule. In some circumstances it is appropriate to write in the first or second person, according to the writing style of your discipline or the subject matter. For example, reflective writing relies on personal experience, so it is necessary to use first person. If you are unsure, check with your course coordinator.
Avoiding 1st and 2nd person
The following examples illustrate ways to remove 1st and 2nd person from your writing.
“In this essay I will examine how gender and ethnicity factors affect buying behaviours.”
“Careful examination of gender and ethnicity factors shows how these affect buying behaviour.”
“Gender and ethnicity factors affect buying behaviours by…”
“I think that assisting developing countries to grow crops such as tobacco and opium poppies is not in their best long-term interests”
“Assisting developing countries to grow crops such as tobacco and opium poppies is not in their best long-term interests.”
“In my opinion, paying benefits to high-school students encourages them to stay at school when they would be better off in paid employment.”
“Paying benefits to high school students encourages them to stay at school when they would be better off in paid employment.”
“As a teacher, I believe teachers need training in observing pupil behaviour to pick up on unexpressed needs.”
“Educationalists need training in observing pupil behaviour to pick up on unexpressed needs.”