How to avoid the repetition of "I" while writing a cover letter for an academic job?

  • I use active voice for cover letter and while doing that I end up with too many "I" and most of the sentences in my letter also begin with "I". This makes my letter quite boring. I would appreciate if you share your suggestion/tips to avoid this while writing a cover letter.

    Since cover letter is the first thing that the potential employer notices, I want to write a concise and attractive cover letter. It will be also helpful if you share a link of a well-written cover letter.

    This could be a good question for English language & usage as well.

    @Peter, thanks for the useful suggestion. Is there any way to link my question to that forum?

    It is up to the moderators if the question should be migrated. I think it is a good question and keen to see the answers.

    @PeterJansson: It's not only up to the moderators. If the question is closed due to being off-topic, then it can perhaps be migrated, but in general, it's up to the community, and to the OP to decide. The only thing that is forbidden is cross-posting (i.e., having the questions on *both* sites).

    @CharlesMorisset to be more accurate, cross-posting is forbidden if you post the **exact same question** on both sites. But you can post two slightly different questions, one here focussing on the academic issues (”should I avoid it? if so, how to?”), and a more generic one on English. You won't get the same type of answers on both sites!

    @F'x: Very good point. I was mostly mentioning it for the benefit of rana, who seems to be quite a new user, in order to avoid the question to cross-posted as such on ELU. But a different question would be of course just fine!

    thanks for the information. I must say I was having this confusion and thinking to post the same question on the other forum. It will be definitely a good idea to explore a more general view on this topic.

    Using “I” in a book or a paper is abhorrent, but in a cover letter it’s impossible to completely avoid. Some hiring staff are real sticklers about “I” while others are not. Sometimes it’s a gamble.

  • F'x

    F'x Correct answer

    7 years ago

    Because it's a cover letter, I think it's quite natural that you say a lot about you in it. That's actually not to be avoided, because you want to give the addressee a good idea of your background, your motivations, your interests, etc. In short, you want to show them who you are, so they want to work with you. This is a totally different exercise than usual academic writing.

    Now, regarding the redundancy of I, it is a matter of writing style. It probably wouldn't bother me much, but if you want to diminish it for some reasons, here are worthy alternatives:

    • Instead of starting your sentence with I, just push it somewhere down in some sentences. That way, you avoid the pattern of I as the first word of every sentence.

      Looking at your group's wide range of research, I must confess a certain attraction for your recent groundbreaking work on the correlation between beer-drinking and publication rate.


    • Use constructions that, while retaining the first person, shift from the subject pronoun to other cases:

      It has been my intention for a few years now to shift my research interests from pure psychology to experimental psychohistory, and I have thus taken in 2009 a post-doc position at the University of Trentor (group of prof. Seldon)

      instead of “I decided a few years ago to move to the field of psychohistory…”. Similarly, you could say


    • The standard techniques of academic writing… introduce the pronoun once, then shift the discuss to avoid being the actor, e.g. using passive voice.

      During my thesis, I introduced a new data reduction technique called XXZ. This algorithm, when applied to large datasets, was used to univocally establish whether data was being manipulated. In particular, results obtained on the 2000 election showed systematic bias against a specific candidate, highlighting its power as a diagnostic tool for real-life applications.


    Be aware that there are downsides, though: most of these alternatives are longer than a direct sentence starting with I, which means overusing them could make you sound windy.

    thanks for the detailed discussion. I like to avoid passive voice and the introductory phases at the beginning of each sentence as these somehow dilute the importance/purpose of the sentence. So I prefer to use active voice and end up with many "I"! I think I should use a proper balance of active/passive voice and don't overuse any of these! Again, do you have example/link that might be useful?

    While the link doesn't work for me, +1 for the link to the Grim study.

    @DanielE.Shub link fixed (DOI changed since the ASAP version I had on my hard drive)

    Speak like Yoda, you can.

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