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Style Question: Use of “we” vs. “I” vs. passive voice in a dissertation

When I am writing a report I usually use we.

What if the project is done by only one person? Should I use I? It sounds a little bit arrogant.

  • Academic/techincal report writers, along with royalty, are allowed to use "we" even if there's only one of them. – FumbleFingers Mar 26 '12 at 4:06

This is why some people resort to the passive voice. Instead of writing, "I did such and such..." they write, "Such and such was done..."

I think part of the decision of whether to use "I" depends on the audience who will be reading your report. I would follow the convention you have seen in other reports in your business.

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    Right, lots of style guides for technical publications forbid personal pronouns completely. – Jim Mar 26 '12 at 4:32
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    And the passive voice is not necessarily a bad thing. From the Wikipedia entry on passive voice: Merriam–Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (1994) recommends the passive voice when identifying the object (receiver) of the action is more important than the subject (agent), and when the agent is unknown, unimportant, or not worth mentioning. This is not to imply that @Rein is unknown, unimportant, or not worth mentioning! But what he/she says in the report is probably more important. – JLG Mar 26 '12 at 11:58
  • @Rein is not a “he/she”; no one is. :) – tchrist Mar 26 '12 at 17:04
  • Wasn't sure of his/her gender. :) (You're right, though.) – JLG Mar 26 '12 at 18:00

In formal writing, “the author” is a more typical construct, not “I”.

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    Maybe in a report, you refer to yourself as "this reporter". – GEdgar Mar 26 '12 at 17:41

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