Country Report (Pro)


Cut Yourself Out (1)

Do you remember the lesson called "Leave Yourself out of It"?

In that lesson, you learned that the "I" point of view does not belong in an academic paper, because—with rare exceptions—personal experience does not count as evidence.

In this lesson, we're going to expand on this rule.

Don't write phrases such as "I believe . . ."

The personal pronoun "I" often creeps into student papers when they write phrases like:

The best way to deal with these phrases is simply to cut them out.

The truth is that phrases such as "I believe" and "I think" are frowned upon in academic writing, because they are considered weak. Compare the following sentences:

Weak Stronger

I think the food in the cafeteria is unhealthy.

The food in the cafeteria is unhealthy.

In my opinion, nuclear energy is dangerous.

Nuclear energy is dangerous.

Be strong. Be confident. Get rid of phrases such as "I believe," and "I think," and "in my opinion".

The 2nd-Person Pronoun

"You" is the second-person pronoun. Be circumspect (cautious) when using it. Is it really necessary? If not, leave it out.

Weak Better

As you can see, the illegal drug trade has affected the earth in a terrible way.

The illegal drug trade has affected the earth in a terrible way.

The Pronoun "We"

The pronoun "we" can also cause problems.

Some columnists do it all the time, with sentences such as "We need a great president like Abraham Lincoln today."

Of course, the reader of the column understands that "we" refers to America or Americans.

However, in a formal academic paper, you should really be writing for an international audience. Therefore, it would be better to say: "The United States would benefit from a president like Lincoln today."

Use your best judgment. If using "we" results in a cleaner, smoother sentence, go ahead and use it. But if you can rewrite the sentence without using "we", and the resulting sentence is equally pleasing, then it's best to leave it out.