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How and Why Not to Say “I”

Writer and Writing References

How and Why Not to Say “I”

Tim said, “Let me read you my essay introduction: ‘In this essay my evidence, as detailed in the following four body paragraphs, will prove all I want to say to you by the time it ends.’”

“I thought the essay was supposed to be about fish.” replied Joni.

“I’ll get to that later. I thought I needed some bait to hook my readers first.”

“No, get to the essay topic of fish; don’t talk about you and your essay structure.”

“Okay, I catch what you’re saying.”

Definition and Examples

You are the writer of the essay, not the writer in the essay. Let’s understand How and Why Not to Say “I” in your essays.

Unlike a narrative (story), you cannot place yourself in the writing. Example: I understand this point of view, but for me as the writer… An essay uses objectivity (being fair to all points of view) to convince in an argumentative essay or to inform or explain in an informational/explanatory essay. Placing yourself in an essay inserts personal preferences and takes away from the objectivity of your evidence.

In a story you would never say things such as “In the next paragraph you will find out who the murderer is” or “as was previously stated in the last chapter” or “by the end of this book, you will learn.” Similarly, an essay should never talk about itself in terms of its parts or as a whole.

Read the rules.

  • Don’t refer to yourself in an essay as the writer or use first person pronouns: I, me, we, us, my, mine, our, myself, ourselves. Additionally, do not address your audience as you.
  • In your essays, don’t refer to parts of the essay or the essay itself. Use transition words to connect sentences and paragraphs to assist the reader’s understanding of your writing.


Write the following sentences and [bracket] the writer and essay references.

  1. I’ll tell you everything you need to know by the end of this essay I wrote.
  2. In the last paragraph, I proved that my evidence was convincing.
  3. In the following paragraphs, I will show you why people should obey traffic signs.
  4. Our goal by the end of this essay will be to give you reasons and evidence to persuade you.
  5. In conclusion, we have proved that our position is correct throughout this editorial.

Revise the sentence to eliminate the writer or essay references.

I have shown that you should delete references to your own writing.


  1. [I’ll tell you] everything [you] need to know by the [end of this essay I wrote].
  2. In the [last paragraph], [I] proved that [my evidence was convincing].
  3. In the [following paragraphs], [I will show you] why people should obey traffic signs.
  4. [Our goal by the end of this essay] will be to give [you reasons and evidence to persuade you].
  5. In conclusion, [we have proved that our position] is correct [throughout this editorial].

Pennington Publishing's TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE


For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. 

Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.

Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),

Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule. 

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Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Study Skills, Writing

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