In order to make your writing more formal, which is what is expected from most academic papers from this point forward, what does one do? More importantly, why is this an issue at all? What does formality do? How does it affect the reader? If I rarely use the pronoun “I,” what effect does that have on the reader? It makes it less personal, right? By making the writing less personal, it helps to remove my personal bias from the presentation. In other words, a person reading would be guided to look at the facts, the experts, the statistics, as opposed to just taking my word for it. We also remove the use of the pronoun “you” from formal writing. The pronoun “you” is used primarily when giving instructions. For example, if someone were to ask me how to get from Simi Valley to Oxnard, I’d use the pronoun “you” in giving those directions to the person, e.g., “You take the 118 to the 23 and exit on the 101 North.” So if we can’t use “I” and “you,” what pronouns work in formal writing?
We can use the third person singular as in “he,” “she,” or “it.” If we want it to be even more formal, we replace those pronouns with “one.” For example, instead of saying “What can we do about technology use?” we could write: “What can one do about one’s technology use?” Although this sounds awkward when we speak, as we normally don’t speak formally, it sounds perfectly reasonable in an academic essay. The thing about using the pronoun “one” is that you have to remember to change the verb forms to match the singular form needed when using the pronoun “one.” For instance, instead of “I think it’s really important to look at the causes of addiction,” we might write, “It’s important for one to consider the causes of addiction. One needs to examine the following: (1) the age of the person; (2) how many hours a day a person uses technology; and (3) the lack of social contacts a person has.” We’ve avoided the use of “I” or “you” and kept it formal. Now the reader won’t feel warm and fuzzy about what we’re presenting. The reader may take the topic more seriously because of our formal language. The reader may look more closely at the facts and statistics, the expert opinions, etc., that we present because it’s not just “my opinion.”
Here are some student-written paragraphs
from an actual research paper I received. The language is not as formal as it should be. Please read these paragraphs, edit them,
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