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March 30, 2012


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Michael Risc

I was always told to use third person to separate the argument from the person (especially pre-tenure). I suppose that senior scholars don't have to worry about that so much. I personally think that first person reads more smoothly, especially for empirical work. "The author collected data on..." sounds strange.

James Grimmelmann

I write some articles in the first person and some in the third person. It depends on the piece. One hinges crucially on things that happened to me, personally: writing that one in the third person would have been pointless. I find the third person more formal. Sometimes that's useful, as for a nuanced doctrinal argument that requires care and deliberation. But the engagement and directness of the first person can also be useful, as in a policy-driven essay that seeks to build a bond with the reader by appealing to what "we" (as scholars and policy-makers) want and what evidence "we" would find convincing.

Jon Weinberg

Use of the first person, I think, tends to make one's prose style seem more casual. Junior scholars are more likely to be wary about appearing to write in too causal a style. Established scholars, often, figure they no longer need to care whether people think their style is too casual.


I think the third person distances you from your text and your reader. Who needs distance? We--the reader and the writer--both know I'm just a person, not "the author" in the machine, so we might as well get comfortable with one another. I, by the way, am as junior as junior can be.

Beau Baez

This author's first articles were in the third person, but as I became more comfortable as a writer I moved to the first person. Most young writers feel more comfortable with templates, and the scholarly template is generally the third person.

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