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Using personal pronouns in spoken speech is great but not in academic writing

What are personal pronouns?

Personal pronouns are words such as I, we, you, our, my, and your. They refer to people and possessions. Consider the following examples:

  • Our results show that use of social media rose
  • You should recycle plastic
  • We need to be more energy efficient

What should be apparent in the above sentences is that the stress is on people rather than on the idea being presented.

Why should you avoid using personal pronouns in academic writing?

Academic writing is idea focused. Therefore, as much as possible, the central focus of sentences should be on the ideas under discussion rather than the actors. Personal pronouns in academic writing are often avoided to achieve this.

Another reason is that reference to you, we, us, them is often unclear. Who does you refer to when writing?

How can you avoid using personal pronouns?

By using the passive, the focus is on the idea rather than people. Of course, people are inherently involved but they are not the primary focus. Consider the following changes:

  • Results show that use of social media rose
  • Plastic should be recycled
  • More energy efficiency is needed

It should be clear from these sentences that the focus is now on the ideas being explored rather than the people. People are still relevant but secondary.