Thursday, March 11, 2010
A Fighting Chance - Part Two
Eliminate Personal References
The academic world requires formal writing. Students love informality. While it is perfectly acceptable to relate vacation experiences to friends via postcards reading, "Having a wonderful time and I wish you were here," such informality is not academic writing. Eliminating the personal references you and I drastically transforms academic papers from recitations of informal opinions to well-reasoned formal submissions.
Personal references have no place in academic writing. If Peggy (from Part One) had written, "When you go to Brazil, you find many tourists in Rio de Janeiro," she might have been factually correct. However, her instructor might respond, "I never go to Brazil!" Of course, Peggy would say, "Oh, I didn't mean you." She didn't? To whom did the you refer? Get the message? It is not wrong writing. It is simply not academic writing. College students should recognize it is not the responsibility of the reader to figure out what the writer means, even if it is obvious to most. It is the responsibility of the writer to convey the exact meaning to the reader. Here is an actual paragraph submitted in a college term paper:
"When you get behind the wheel of a car, you have a responsibility to control your vehicle at all times. If you fail to do so, you may injure someone, or you may kill someone. You must control your vehicle at all times. If you do not, you may be subject to liability. You might be compelled to pay damages, or you might end up in prison."
Prison! I have a perfect driving record! Of course, this student was not referring to me. He simply failed to understand a key strategy for college writing success – Personal references have no place in academic writing. The concept is simple, but extremely effective.
Eliminate unnecessary personal references.