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It's All About ME: Cutting Back on the Word "I" in Your Personal Essay

Don't feel bad if your personal narrative uses a lot of the word "I." It's very common, and it's hard to avoid. After all, we're writing about ourselves. Ultimately, though, too much of the word "I" can weaken your essay (and even make or break your college acceptance).
Basically, repetition of the word "I" makes writing boring. Not only does it keep sentence structure generic, it also makes you as the author seem self-centered. If you want your essay to stand out and capture readers' interest, it's time to do something about the "I" problem.
Here's how to do it:
First, you'll need to highlight or underline every instance of the word "I" in your essay. It's easiest to do this on your word processor, since editing will be easier on the computer.
Now, you're going to need to get rid of some of those pesky pronouns. A good rule of thumb is five I's per essay. Ten might be OK. Any more, and we've got some work to do. Some quick "I" transformations are:
  • Turn yourself from the subject into the object.
    • "I learn a lot from my sister." becomes "My sister teaches me a lot." Cut the "me" for bonus points: "My sister has been an incredible teacher."
  • Generalize the subject. 
    • "I'd heard great things about Stanley." becomes "We'd heard great things about Stanley."
    • "I couldn't believe how interesting Mr. Geoffrey made history." becomes "The whole class paid eager attention to Mr. Geoffrey's stories."
  • Rework the sentence to imply but not directly mention yourself.
    • "I miss my mom." becomes "Life without mom gets tough sometimes."
    • "I watched Tony struggle through the last few minutes." becomes "Tony struggled through the last few minutes."

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