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Characteristics

Personal Writing

We are going to talk about two writing styles in this course: personal writing and impersonal writing. Let's get acquainted with the characteristics of personal writing, which:

  • uses personal pronouns, such as you, we, he, she and I;
  • uses proper nouns, such as Mr. Jones, Ms. Smith and Mr. Sanchez; and
  • often uses active* voice, such as “Mr. Jones agreed to meet the deadline.”

While they are not proper nouns, job descriptions, such as the cashier or the lender, are often used to personalize writing. However, these alone do not convey personal writing.

*Important: Personal writing is most strongly defined by the presence of personal pronouns and proper nouns. If a sentence contains passive voice, but also contains personal pronouns or proper nouns, it should still be considered personal style. 

Examples of Personal Writing:

Our first example of personal writing uses the following sentence: Mr. Sanchez requested a letter of referral from us. In this sentence, “Mr. Sanchez” is the proper noun, “requested” is the active voice verb and "us" is the personal pronoun. The graphic below breaks this down:

Mr. Sanchez requested a letter of referral from us.

Our second example uses the following sentence: We are providing Mr. Sanchez a letter of referral. In this sentence, “We” is the personal pronoun, “are providing” is the active voice verb, and “Mr. Sanchez“ is the proper noun. The graphic below breaks this down for us.

We are providing Mr. Sanchez a letter of referral.

Impersonal Writing

The other writing style is impersonal writing. The characteristics of impersonal writing are rather simple to define because they are the opposite of those for personal writing.  Impersonal writing:

  • does NOT use personal pronouns;
  • does NOT use proper nouns; and
  • often uses passive* voice, such as “The team was encouraged to meet the deadline.”

*Important: Impersonal writing is mostly defined by the lack of personal pronouns and proper nouns. If a sentence contains active voice, but lacks personal pronouns or proper nouns, it should still be considered impersonal style.

Examples of Impersonal Writing:

Our first example of impersonal writing uses the following sentence: A letter of referral was requested. In this sentence, there are no pronouns or personal nouns (as is customary for impersonal writing) and “was requested” is the passive voice verb. The graphic below breaks this down for us.

 As requested, the referral letter is enclosed.

Our second example of impersonal writing uses the following sentence: As requested, the referral letter is enclosed. In this sentence, there are no pronouns or personal nouns (as is customary for impersonal writing) and “is enclosed” is the passive voice verb. The graphic below breaks this down for us.

A letter of referral was requested.
Before moving on, take note:  Personal writing uses personal pronouns, proper nouns and active voice. Also, using job titles, such as examiner, cashier or loan officer, personalizes writing. Impersonal writing uses passive voice and no personal pronouns or proper nouns.


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