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Academic Writing
Impersonal Language

Using Impersonal Language1

Characteristically, academic writing has an objective tone: that is, the language of a written text sounds independent from the writer and reader. An objective tone can be achieved through the use of impersonal language. Using impersonal language requires you, as the writer, to avoid characteristics of personal language such as:

bullet using personal pronouns such as 'I', 'we', 'you', 'our', 'us' to refer to yourself or the reader

I agree with Edmund's (1987) perspective that our way of dealing with stress can be unproductive.

bullet using judgemental words that indicate your feelings about a subject

I am convinced by Carroll's (1996) conclusion that Australian architecture requires innovation, yet I dislike the way he has ignored residential design in order to reach this conclusion.

bulletusing words that are emotive.

The conditions are appalling and account, to a large extent, for the terrible morbidity and mortality statistics of this community.


Look at the model texts. One cause of the difference in formality between the two texts is the use of impersonal language.


The inequity in the distribution of wealth in Australia is yet another indicator of Australia's lack of egalitarianism. In 1995, 20% of the Australian population owned 72.2% of Australia's wealth with the top 50% owning 92.1% (Raskall, 1998: 287). Such a significant skew in the distribution of wealth indicates that, at least in terms of economics, there is an established class system in Australia. McGregor (1988) argues that Australian society can be categorised into three levels: the Upper, Middle and Working classes. In addition, it has been shown that most Australians continue to remain in the class into which they were born (McGregor, 1988: 156) despite arguments about the ease of social mobility in Australian society (Fitzpatrick, 1994). The issue of class and its inherent inequity, however, is further compounded by factors such as race and gender within and across these class divisions.

The relative disadvantage of women with regard to their earnings and levels of asset ownership indicates that within classes there is further economic inequity based on gender...
Impersonal subject used to start sentence

Evidence introduced with impersonal language

Because only a few people have most of the money and power in Australia, I conclude that it is not an equal society. Society has an Upper, Middle and Lower class and I think that most people when they are born into one class, end up staying in that class for their whole lives. When all three classes are looked at more closely, other things such as the differences between the sexes and people's racial backgrounds also add to the unequal nature of Australian society.

Women earn less than men and own less than men. Why is this so?
Personal language

Impersonal subject


Adapted in part from: Woodward-Kron and Thomson, 2000

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Summary Conventions Structures Words Introduction