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Get The "You" Outta Here: Home

Spotting and Removing Second Person from Academic Writing

Oh Silly, YOU!

When you reach puberty, you grow hair on your chest.

woman thinking

Removing Second Person Handout and Practice

Download the Removing Second Person Handout and Practice:

For answers to the practice, visit a campus tutoring center near you.

Rule of Thumb for Academic Writing

For all academic papers in all college classes, students should eliminate the use of second person pronouns:

  • you, your, yours
  • we, us, our, ours

Sounds harsh, but unless an instructor specifically says otherwise, assume second person is to be avoided.

Get the "You" Outta Here Video

Main Reasons to Avoid Second Person

There are several reasons to avoid the use of "you" in academic writing:

  • Causes confusion
  • Addresses the reader
  • Is imprecise
  • Is inaccurate
  • Shifts person
  • Is too informal

Breaking the You Habit

Four ways to break the "you" habit include the following:

  • Use nouns instead
  • Use indefinite pronouns (everyone, someone, anything) instead
  • Cut the "you" out altogether
  • Avoid giving commands (where "you" is the implied subject)

Spotting Second Person

Before submitting a paper, be sure to proofread it carefully to eliminate second person.

  • The best way to spot second person is to print paper and read it out loud.
  • Another way is to use the Find/Replace feature in your word processing software.