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  1. #1
    AnthonyS is offline Newbie
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    Lightbulb Proposal: Unshackle I in Academic Writing

    The usage of I in academic writing, as I'm sure you all know, is met with a full-on suppression within many high school English teachers classrooms. Many teachers within this field say to leave the personal sense out of writing and focus more on the substance. Or that first-person pronouns do more harm than good.

    These teachings and beliefs could be right, depending on the genre or the student. For instance if the pronoun I is used incorrectly it could diminish the students presence, as I am sure you all know. But to impose a full-on ban when there are countless possibilities that can be derived through the correct usage pronoun I is only restricting your students.

    First person pronoun usage, or its absence, allows for the student to create their own sense of authorial voice. When first person pronouns are stripped away from them it is like they lose a sense of their authorial presence.

    As I see it, the teachers who fully prevent first-person pronoun usage within academic writing are limiting the opportunities that can be derived throughout a students work.

    I feel like if the do not use I construct, which is derived from these teachings and beliefs, is instilled into the mind of your students at a young-teen age it could restrict what your students are capable of in their writing; not only in the present but also going forward.

    So, I propose to the teachers within this field to allow your students to freely use I within their writing and instill the teaching of when and how to use the I pronoun efficiently and correctly.

    To achieve this, the teachers within this field should make sure students understand the guidelines of the genre they are writing under. Teaching students how the use of I might be more appropriate in certain genres over others. Also explaining to students how the use of I could also diminish ones presence if used incorrectly.

    If you all are able to address these topics and allow for your students to freely use the I pronoun it would amount to advances in your students work. Not only setting up a proper writing structure for them in present but it would also set up your students for their future writing endeavors.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Proposal: Unshackle I in Academic Writing

    I never liked referring myself in the third person with things like this reader.

  3. #3
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    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Proposal: Unshackle I in Academic Writing

    Welcome, Anthony!

    No one ever objected when I used I. Or you or we, for that matter.

    I certainly never stopped anyone I was tutoring from using it. But I'm not a teacher. Interesting to hear about it!
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Proposal: Unshackle I in Academic Writing

    I was told to at one university, but I carried on. I didn't use it much so I guess they stopped noticing.

  5. #5
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    Re: Proposal: Unshackle I in Academic Writing

    I really don't understand the focus of the discussion. Why on earth would anybody want to use I in a piece of academic writing?

    Are we really talking about academic writing here or are we talking about the kind of essay that your English teacher would ask you to write at secondary school? The high school teachers are quite right to tell you not to talk about yourself when you're writing an essay about the loss of innocence in Catcher in the Rye. There's a very good reason that teachers say this!

  6. #6
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Re: Proposal: Unshackle I in Academic Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    . . . There's a very good reason that teachers say this!
    I've never heard a teacher say it. What's the reason?
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  7. #7
    jutfrank's Avatar
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    Re: Proposal: Unshackle I in Academic Writing

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    I've never heard a teacher say it. What's the reason?
    Students at this age have had (or are assumed to have had) zero exposure to academic texts. The age at which high school kids are first asked to write essays, or scientific reports, or whatever, is generally the age at which the education system they're in is preparing them for higher education, which is one of the main goals of any state education system. In short, writing a high school essay is supposed, in part at least, to be preparation for university. You can think of high school essays as a kind of introductory practice to the kinds of thing they'll have to write at university. There's obviously no reason to talk about yourself in a dissertation examining the history of Neo-Platonic thought, or a scientific analysis of the effects of UV light on regeneration in cytoplasts.

    The reason that teachers tend to drone on about this 'rule' is that students keep doing it! Children tend to personalise their writing because as children, they're only used to personalising all their ideas. They naturally want to write things like I think ... .They can't do anything else because they've never been taught to place themselves in the impersonal position that academic writing requires. This is precisely what we want to teach them to do.

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