Essay Lab Glossary



Academic essays are usually formal pieces of writing, and in keeping with their formal tone, some teachers strongly prefer that writers not use the first person (“I”) or second person (“you”) in papers. Whatever you do, don’t write in the fourth person. It’s too tough to keep things straight when your essay enters the fourth dimension.

In essays where you do try writing in first or second person, even if some of your evidence is your own interpretation of things, you’ll need to state it as something that is objectively true. Remember—you’re something of a reporter here; you’re not trying to become the next J.K. Rowling and sell 100 million copies. Although that would certainly finance your next skiing trip.

A few years ago, writing in third person was a hard and fast rule in all schools. But this has been gradually changing as writing has become more casual—yes, even academic writing. Guess those professorial types have been opening their collars and loosening their bow ties.

So make sure that you check with your teacher about their preference. Some teachers might even prefer a more casual style—and of course, it can be hard to keep the “I” out of some types of essays, like the Descriptive Essay or the Narrative. In fact, we challenge you to write an entire essay without using any “I”s. Ncredbly trcky.

Check out our literary definition of point of view for a different, um, point of view.