Let’s talk about “YOU”, personal pronouns in writing, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED activity
Hi Class, this came up last week when I had you read the “How College Writing Differs” article where it discussed avoiding personal pronouns. One of the main reasons to do this has also to do with what we talked about when we talked about informal and formal language. Personal pronouns are INFORMAL.
But to me, the MOST important reason(s) to avoid the pronoun “you” has to do with the reader. Let’s take a look 🙂
Most English instructors and other instructors will caution you against using second person pronouns or any other personal pronouns in your academic writing unless you have specifically been assigned to write directions or advice or letters or memos. Or when writing about something that happened to you- then you can use “I” and “we” etc.
I also found this wonderful little essay tonight written by an English teacher that has the same pet peeve that I do. I don’t have many pet peeves, but the use of “you” does happen to be one of mine. (Can I at least have one or two pet peeves????)Here is a link to the essay. It’s short and sums up what I would say and have tried to say:http://nctesecondary.blogspot.com/2009/02/maybe-if-i-beg-for-mercy.html
Please share your thoughts after reading this short essay.
After reading the short essay, please do the following activity, which can account for participation credit this week.
Unfortunately, eliminating “you” from writing is hard for some students. So let’s practice and also let’s see why “you” and forms of “you” such as “your” should be avoided
Now, you all may wonder why I am allowed to use “you”!
Well, this is because I actually do mean YOU, a specific student or students, when I use it. Only when writing letters or memos to specific people is it appropriate. Also, there could be times you might be assigned to write directions, rarely. Also, sometimes in discussions you can use “you”, when you are responding to another student or the instructor or the whole class.
But in your essays, avoid using “you”. College essays aren’t directions and they are not letters, so that’s one reason, I mention the “you.” Another time you could use “you” is when you are writing dialogue and one of your characters is talking to someone.Example: “You better wipe that grin off your face”, my father said.
Sometimes another thing happens–a writer uses “we” and “our” in way that is imprecise. That is also frowned on because it is often not clear who “we” and “our” is referring to and also sometimes it can sound like the writer is writing a speech instead of an academic essay.
Here are some sentences to consider that might be in an academic essay inappropriately:
You should vote because a democracy depends on people to participate in it. Ifyou don’t, you are shirking your duties as a citizen. We are counting on you tokeep democracy intact. Our country needs you to keep our democracy goingstrong.
You fail your children if you don’t teach them morals and proper behavior. Your children will turn out tobe drug addicts or criminals. We need to make sure that children get a properupbringing and the schools can’t do it all. You are responsible for ournation’s future. Children are our future, you know.
Based on these sentences, what are some possible reasons, “you” should not be used in academic writing? How do the paragraphs as written make you feel?
Lastly, revise one of the paragraphs to get rid of the “you”, “we” and “our” (hint: to do this, you will have to figure who the writer really means by those words.)