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A Japanese person said that it is often normal to talk about oneself in the third person in English. This is what he wrote:

For example, when you write a CV or an introduction of yourself, the formal way is to refer to yourself in third person. The same is in academic paper.

Do you think this is true?

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It depends on the institution or journal you wish to publish in. For example: oup.com/us/samplechapters/0841234620/?view=usa#STYLE – z7sg Ѫ Jul 30 '11 at 2:29
Also related: Referring to oneself in first vs. third person in online profiles (migrated to Writers.SE). – RegDwigнt Jul 30 '11 at 4:42

In an academic paper you were traditionally supposed to reduce the personal aspect, so instead of saying "I measured", or "Dr X measured" you would use the passive form "X was measured". This sounds a little old fashioned so a normal compromise is to use "we" - even if there aren't multiple authors.

In a CV today I would use "I", "I managed a team of 20 people and was responsible for X"

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In most of the academic CVs I've seen, neither the first person nor the third person is used. Bullet-pointed past-tense verb phrases are used instead, as in the following hypothetical example.


  • Reorganized the Advanced Research Department with resulting 10% decrease in productivity.
  • Introduced Byzantine quality control bureaucracy.
  • Headed team that developed never-released code for adding useless features to XYZ software.

I don't know whether writing a CV in the first person would increase or decrease your chances of being hired, however. It might make your CV stand out, which can be a good thing.

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I think this is a tradition in academia, but is not confined there. You can also see it in family newsletters, group status updates, and so on. Someone may write "Dave has completed the new report design, Jill has authorized the new release dates, and Steven is 90% complete on the website updates" even if one of those three people is actually the author of the sentence. Typically it's used where the information is supposed to be coming from everyone and using I or me would over-emphasize one person in the group. (In the traditional family brag newsletter, it also lets some people feel a little more comfortable than writing "I won another award for my peach pie".)

It would be pretty strange in spoken English or in a non-academic document with a single author, like an email status report that covers only your own work, or a letter to a friend.

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It would arguably be inappropriate to talk in third person in a normal conversation, but as Martin mentioned, it is usually (at least in my experience) encouraged and/or expected at an academic level.

For example, if I was to write an annotated bibliography, (albeit with appropriate referencing), I would write something along the lines of:

"It is of the opinion that the results show a higher than expected X."

"It is believed that the results of X's study which illustrates Y show consistent Z."

"It is therefore, recommended, that systematic changes be made to X"

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Nowhere in your examples do you refer to yourself in the third person. You've simply avoided referring to yourself altogether. Writing in the third person, and referring to oneself in the third person, are two different things. – language hacker Jul 31 '11 at 16:11
It is of the opinion? – TRiG Sep 14 '11 at 14:39

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