Authorial Voice: I or We?

In formal academic prose, singular authors often refer to themselves in the plural.

In this chapter, we shall argue …

As we suggested above …

We can conclude …

CMS does not have a clear rule about authorial voice; however, the editors note in a brief Q&A:

“We” used to be more common in scholarly writing than it is now. The British use it more than Americans do. CMOS recommends using “I,” but if the literature in your field avoids this, you should follow suit. Either way, it’s fine to use “we” when referring to something that author and readers are implicitly doing together….

SBL Press style follows this recommendation. We advise authors to use the first-person singular pronoun when interjecting one’s own authorial voice.

In this chapter, I shall argue …

As I suggested above …

If including the reader in the action, the first-person plural pronoun is acceptable:

I conclude …


We can conclude …

The first-person singular pronoun is also acceptable when an author refers to his or her own previous publication:

See my previous article …

In my 2005 volume, The Bible throughout History, I argued …

If, however, an author includes his or her previous work in a bibliographic citation without comment, the first-person singular pronoun is unnecessary. Use standard bibliographic format:

3. Name, Title (city: publisher, date), page number(s).


(Last Name Year).

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