Using "I" in an Essay
A common issue in essay-writing is whether to use “I”:
(E.g., “I believe that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the rhetorical appeal of pathos to both admonish and make allies of white fellow clergymen who were not yet supporting civil rights for African Americans.”)
Some teachers will allow you to use “I” while others will not. Be sure to ask.
Try to avoid using first person verb tense unless you are writing a Personal or Response Essay describing events that happened directly to you and are informed by your unique perspective.
At the same time, remember that you are the Assumed Author. When you are not quoting, summarizing, or explaining the meaning of outside material, your reader will read the essay as your personal perspective.
With this in mind, you can correct the habit of self-attribution—writing “I think/I believe/I am of the opinion that...”—by erasing yourself from the offending passages:
Example 1: “I believe that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the rhetorical appeal of pathos to both admonish and make allies of white fellow clergymen who were not yet supporting civil rights for African Americans.”
Example 2: “In my opinion, King Jr’s expressed respect for white clergymen as men of the cloth made it possible for them to become allies for African Americans, even as he chided them for their callous indifference to racial injustice.”
Since you are understood to be the author, state your opinion as a point-of-fact; you will go on to prove your statements in your paper, so be confident in your assertions.