The Trouble with "I"
But is using "I" really bad?
In the Spring 2011 issue of Inside English Charles Hood of Antelope Valley College asks "Why do Students use "I" Appropriately in Speech and Yet so Badly in Papers?" Here are four kinds of student "I" uses that he found ineffective:
The Invisible Man I. That is, there is no human agency in the paper; instead sentences (often fragments) appear out of the ether, passively imply some situation or potential action, then disappear, never to be owned or directed by any named source of potency.So what should a student do?
The inane I. "I think Elvis was a famous singer." You don't think this, everybody thinks this.
The Narcissists' I. "This is my paper. In this paper I will do such and such. I have thought about this a lot and I have a lot of sources. I will then do such and such." As Hood remarks, "Just Do It."
The Shoot Yourself in the Foot I. AKA honesty is not always the best policy. Those I-voice papers that (in essence) reveal that the author hates books, did no homework, and has zero interest in the topic at hand. They often start out: "I don't like English."
Hood recommends a "nuanced, logical application of I . . . . It is okay to use [I] if it is a vital part of the thing that is being discussed." Furthermore, he believes students should "step forward and sing," while instructors listen to student voices.
Students need to be able to take a chance with their informed "I" opinions. But something students should keep in mind, is that the overuse of any word or construction is annoying to any reader. Think about it? If you had to read paper after paper where every other sentence began with "I", you'd get annoyed too. So don't weaken your argument by inserting yourself with twenty "I"s on a page. Remember, you are writing college papers to make a point -- your point -- so, use a strong "I" where appropriate.
"The strongest man in the world is he who stands alone." ~Henrik Ibsen