How to Avoid Writing in First Person
Lee Bowman
prof.bowman@gmail.com
© 2003

I have received a few email requests for examples demonstrating how to avoid using the word "I" in writing assignments. It is important to be able to project a professional tone when writing for graduate assignments. As you will see in the revised paragraphs below, entire paragraphs can be written without using the word "I" one single time. The writing in the following revised paragraphs is formal and professional, rather than the informal or casual style as in the original paragraphs. The difference between the examples and the revisions can be seen in sentence structure, word choices, and overall sentence organization within these paragraphs. [There are other grammatical errors throughout the examples that have also be corrected in the revisions.]

Professional writing can be of great benefit to you throughout your career. Many jobs require that people write newsletters, grant proposals, letters home to management, articles for journals or presentation, and various other communications that require professional writing. Writing professionally takes time and practice and, at least in the beginning, some frustration. However, you have resources available to assist you in learning to write professionally.

Example 1:

As a new teacher I have and continue to struggle to find a balance between setting high expectations for my students and building positive relationships with them. For the first half of my first year, I simply struggled to use the resources provided to create challenging lessons. Through continual hard work, I believe that the lessons I create are age and ability appropriate. To my dismay, I noticed that as my class increased in difficulty, my relationship with my students seemed to suffer. As Mr. Cantor spoke of his teacher, Mr. Nicholson, I realized that the only way I will be able to have a profound impact on a student’s life is if I can find the balance I previously mentioned.

Revised:

New teachers face a continuous struggle to find a balance between setting high expectations for students and building positive relationships with them. For the first half of the first year, teachers' main concern is simply creating challenging lessons with the resources available in the classroom. Through continual hard work, lessons can become age and ability appropriate. Sometimes though, as the curriculum increases in difficulty, teachers' relationships with students seems to suffer. As Canter (1996) said of Mr. Nicholson, the only way to have a profound impact on a student’s life is in finding the balance between high expectations and building positive relationships. 

Example 2:

As the years have passed, this has changed. I was required to contribute to a variety of committees that carried other responsibilities. Others discovered that I have a fatal fault, I can’t say “no”. They also discovered that I take responsibility very seriously. When I commit to something, I deliver, and I do so on time. Now, when they need someone reliable to sit on or chair a committee, I am one of the first to be asked. I’ve gotten better at saying “no” to my colleagues because I am simply out of time, and can’t, in good conscience, commit to something I know I can’t finish. But I still have difficulty saying “no” to my principal, which is something I am going to have to work harder on. What has happened, however, is that I rely more and more on the same lessons I’ve used before and I have less time in which to plan new ones.

Revised:

As the years have passed, this has changed. Contributions to various committees required other responsibilities. Colleagues quickly discovered that fatal flaw, an inability to say “No.” They also discovered that when responsibility is taken seriously as part of a strong work ethic, all tasks undertaken are completed and delivered on time. This has resulted in  colleagues requesting additional responsibilities, such as chairing or serving on committees whenever they need a reliable person. More and more lately, saying “No” to colleagues has become easier simply because there is not enough time to commit to any task that cannot be completed according to high standards. On the other hand, saying “No” to the principal is still very difficult. The end result is, however, that more and more classroom lessons are the same as in previous years because there is less time to plan new material and learning activities.

Example 3:

I feel that when parents work together with the teacher, the student is most successful. The way you do that is to communicate to parents on a steady basis. As teachers we do that by setting up a parent conferences, letters home and phone calls. With technology today we can use e-mail to communicate back and forth. I’ve actually had a three parents request that this current school year.  As a teacher I can communicate to parent’s educational places to go on the net or computer software that can increase his/her child’s knowledge or skills. I am excited about this program because I know there is more I could be doing to integrate technology in my classroom. 

Revised:

Students are most often successful when parents work together with the teacher. One way to do this is through steady communication with parents in conferences, letters, and phone calls. With the technology that is available in most schools today, email provides another effective means for communicating with parents. In fact, this year three parents have requested email as their preferred choice for communication. Using technology as a communication tool, teachers can inform parents about new educational web sites and software that can increase students’ knowledge or skills. This program is very exciting because there is always more to learn about integrating technology in the classroom.