The first person




Pronoun Usage, First-Person Pronouns, Second-Person Pronouns, Third-Person Pronouns, Higher Education


In this playful meditation on academic pronouns, I report on my research findings from three separate studies: a 2007 analysis of pronoun usage patterns in recent higher education articles; a 2017 analysis of pronoun usage patterns in Teaching and Learning Inquiry since the founding of the journal in 2013; and an updated 2017 analysis of the same five higher education journals examined a decade earlier.  You may be surprised by the results.  However, we are not inclined to reveal the whole story here in the abstract.  It is the conviction of the author that the present article must be read in its entirety in order to be fully appreciated. 


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Helen Sword, University of Auckland

Helen Sword is Professor and Director of the Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education at the University of Auckland (NZ). Her recent books include Stylish Academic Writing (2012), The Writer’s Diet (2016), and Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write (2017).


McInerney, Jay. (1984). Bright Lights, Big City. New York, NY: Vintage.

Rilke, R. M. (1995). Ahead of all parting: The selected poetry and prose of Rainer Maria Rilke (S. Mitchell, Trans.). New York, NY: Modern Library.

Stall, S. (2007). 100 cats who changed civilization: History’s most influential felines. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books.

Sword, H. (2009). Writing higher education differently: A manifesto on style. Studies in Higher Education, 34(3), 319-336.

Sword, H. (2012). Stylish academic writing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.




How to Cite

Sword, Helen. 2019. “The First Person”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 7 (1):182-90.