1
$\begingroup$

I'm the sole author of a paper and in my introduction I've written:

We are able to talk about... Doing so we manage to capture ... We accomplish this by embedding...

and I'm wondering whether it's correct to talk about myself in the plural like that, similar to the way that mathematicians tend to write when talking about some mathematical fact or proof. If not do I just write things like "I am able to talk about"? Because that just sounds odd.

$\endgroup$

marked as duplicate by Mike Pierce, Hans Lundmark, user91500, Arnaud D., Theoretical Economist Aug 24 '18 at 13:21

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've been in this position before. As odd as it feels, writing with we usually is the way to go. $\endgroup$ – Don Thousand Aug 24 '18 at 1:00
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ (1) I have always argued that the "we" here is a special "mathematical we". It is not the singular "royal we", but it is also not a "we-the-authors we". My view is that mathematics is a collective activity of humanity, and that once a result is prove, that result holds true for all of us. Hence the "mathematical we" is a "we" which implies that humanity as a whole has accomplished and understood something. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Aug 24 '18 at 1:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (2) That being said, while use of "we" in mathematical writing is quite common, it is a phrase which I have been trying to remove from my writing as much as possible. It is almost always possible shift to the passive voice (whatever Microsoft's grammar checker believes, this is pretty common style in scientific writing) or otherwise find a way to avoid the pronoun "we" (or, possibly any pronoun at all). $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Aug 24 '18 at 1:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson The use of 'we' is standard across just about all English math journals as far as I know, even for single authors. $\endgroup$ – Jair Taylor Aug 24 '18 at 1:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JairTaylor Indeed. That is what I was alluding to when I said that it is quite common. It is pretty standard in journals, monographs, textbooks, course notes, and so on. I still try to avoid it–it may be the standard style, but I find that my own mathematical writing is often made clearer or more concise when I try to weed out the pronouns. As you can no doubt infer, I am somewhat (perhaps overly) verbose. I also try to avoid phrases such as "clearly", "obviously", and "it is trivial." Again, this cuts down on verbosity and tends to tighten up the writing. I need all the help I can get. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Aug 24 '18 at 2:14
3
$\begingroup$

As odd as you may feel it is, using first person singular is usually frowned upon, as we, and first person plural is preferred. Additionally, third person, in the form of "The author," can also be used, especially with acknowledgements (The author would like to thank x,y,z for their contributions).

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Yes, this is completely standard. In fact, the first-person singular is almost never used in technical papers. Even in the acknowledgments, it's common to say things like "The author would like to thank..."

You can think of the 'we' here as referring to you and the reader, working together.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I usually think of it as us working together when talking about actual math, but it doesn't seem to apply as much in meta discussion, it seems like a reasonable way to do things I guess. $\endgroup$ – Math chiller Aug 24 '18 at 1:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Alternately, if you are feeling autocratic you can think of it as the royal we. :) $\endgroup$ – Jair Taylor Aug 24 '18 at 1:13

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.