In certain writing tasks that you are required to do for university, for example essays, you will be asked to give your opinion on the topic at hand. There are several different ways to do this: A distinction is made between expressions and phrases that emphasize your views explicitly and those that reflect your opinion implicitly. In this article, you can find out which expressions are best in which context and how to create variety.
While it is possible to say that, as a general rule, implicit expressions that reflect your opinion in a more subtle way are mostly preferred in academic writing, there are also cases in which it might be useful to overtly state your view by using phrases that contain the personal pronouns “I” and “my” to make clear that it is your point of view that you are focusing on right now. Thus, there is no such rule as “Never include “I” in essays.” The key is to use these kinds of expressions when they suit your purpose, so for instance when you clearly want to distance yourself from a certain view. Moreover, avoiding “I” can lead to awkwardness and vagueness, so it can sometimes be more effective to use the first person. Personal pronouns unmistakably show when and where exactly you are building on or departing from your sources of information. Thus, they underline the originality of your ideas and views, which, in turn, improves your writing style.
While this only applies to some academic fields and text types, as far as the Humanities and essays or term papers are concerned, it is generally considered appropriate to use the first person, as your instructor will be interested in reading your original analyses and interpretations. But beware: Don’t confuse giving your personal opinion with writing about your personal experience! Your experiences and anecdotes do not have any place in academic term papers whatsoever, whereas they might be included in some contexts for example when you are asked to write a more personal and less academic text in your language classes. To make sure, always ask your instructor.
Moreover, you should be aware of the fact that some expressions more convincingly underline your assertions than others and that your arguments will always need sufficient explanations and defense. Hence, expressions such as “I think that…” or “I believe that…”, which we often find in speech but less in academic writing, are weaker and less convincing than “I assert that…”, “I am convinced that…”, “I have no doubt that…” or “I hold the impression/ view that…”.
Furthermore, we often find the phrases “In my opinion, …” and “In my view, …” in academic writing and professional reports. To a lesser extent, we have expressions such as “To my mind,…”, From my point of view” and “As far as I am concerned”; These three phrases are also rather used in speech than in writing.
Another useful way of explicitly stating your opinion is to employ structures that contain adjectives, such as “I consider it important/ crucial/ essential/ useful/ likely/ … to …” or “I deem it necessary/ proper/ appropriate/ … to …”. If you are not quite so adamant about your opinion yourself, you can also utilize weaker expressions such as “I am under the impression that …”, “I suppose that …”, “I assume that …”, “I presume that …” or “I conjecture that …”.
Impersonal expressions, on the other hand, reflect your opinion implicitly. Again, there is the possibility to use structures that contain evaluative adjectives, as is the case with phrases like “It is convenient/ difficult/ hard/ impossible/ reasonable/ easy/ … to …” or “It is apparent/ arguable/ doubtful/ obvious/ remarkable/ desirable/ noteworthy/ conceivable/ … that …”.
In your academic texts, you can furthermore employ structures that consist of “It is worth + present participle of a verb + that”, frequently used collocations being “It is worth examining/ investigating/ remembering/ recalling/ noting/ stressing/ pointing out/ emphasizing/ … that …”. There are moreover evaluative adverbs that stress your opinion, examples for this being “Interestingly, …”, “Arguably, …”, “Obviously, …”, “Evidently, …”, and “Surprisingly, …”.
As you can see, there are plenty of possibilities to express your personal opinion in your academic writing tasks and to create variety in doing so. Including different types of phrases and varying expressions while sticking to the requirements of the writing task at hand will improve your overall writing style.
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Writing Center: „Should I Use ‚I‘?“
- Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners (2007): „E. Expressing Personal Opinions.“ London: Macmillan, IW 15-16.