Although it's all about you, it really isn’t if you want to get your point across with good effect. Keeping clear of using the first-person point of view in an important composition, such as an essay, cover letter or thesis can feel like a daunting endeavor. However, there are a few ways to write around the first-person conundrum that can send fledgling essayists over the edge.

Cardinal Rules

Why is it such a no-no to interject an “I” or two into your work? If you pepper your paper with first-person references, you make the work appear less objective. The reader is turned off by your constant reference to yourself because it can make you sound biased. Stand on the facts and let them fly while presenting them in the second person. Rely on the names of authors, institutions you’ve worked for and titles of major works to present your case.

In some cases, you may find yourself absolutely stuck with referring to yourself. In that case, you can refer to yourself in the third person, such as “In this writer’s opinion” or “This author concludes” to avoid using the lowly “I” that tears the reader’s attention away from the point. Dump the passive voice for stronger sentence structure. For example, “I gathered the results” is changed to “The results were gathered.”

Often, you can turn the perspective around to avoid using the first person. If you find yourself discussing yourself, return the reader to the subject at hand by saying, “This thesis will reveal” rather than “I will describe in this thesis.”

Be direct in your statements and avoid interjecting your opinion. The information should be strong enough to stand on its own without your opinion supporting it into fact.

When to Use the Second Person

It’s not ideal, but there are a few instances in which using second-person references can work to your advantage. Be careful, though, as using the second person “you” gives a more conversational connotation to your piece. This can be welcome in some instances, but it can also throw the reader off your subject and downplay the strength of your work. Alternatives to “you” can be “people,” “one” or “the reader.” This is best used for academic works where the second person “you” may lessen the impact of your work.

Take your time and go through your finished piece to find all references to the first person, including “I,” “me” and “mine.” Rework the sentence with the suggestions above and you'll have a stronger piece overall. Remember to emphasize the experience, event, article or business before interjecting yourself.