Overusing "I"

Overusing "I"

A Lesson by Meeks

Reader's absolutely hate when you use the same exact word to open up your sentence several times in a row.


Take a look at this almost perfect paragraph:

"I brush my teeth, shower and all the other things guys do. I didn't feel like taking the bus so my mom drives me to school that day. I'm glad she did, I was in no mood for idiots on the bus." [1]

One giant error immediately throws itself at your eyes. All of the sentences start with "I". (I'm removing subordinate clauses placed before the sentence, they don't count.)

But how can we change that? Aren't "I"'s a necessary evil? You can't avoid them, can you? I mean, how else are you going to refer to yourself throughout the story?!

Well, do I have news for you. There are several ways to decrease the amount of "I"s in your writing, some good, some bad.

Sentence Variety

This is a topic that probably deserves it's own, special lesson, but for now a short intro will have to do: sentence variety is something that is healthy for your novel, and keeps the writing fresh.

One of the ways of getting rid of "I" is simply adding more sentence variety. Instead of using re-active sentences for a whole paragraph, throw a descriptive one it there. Switch it up a bit, it not only gets rid of repetition but also helps your novel in general!

Yes, we learned about the four sentence types in grade school, but this is different. In fiction, each sentence does a specific thing, and can be classified by this.

A) The Active Sentence - A sentence that describes what is happening around your character. It always has to involve some sort of movement, which is usually fulfilled by other characters.

Ex. "He fell off the bridge."

Ex. "They ran across the field."

Ex. "As soon as she saw our flickering silhuettes, Janet crouched down behind a crate."

Get it? These are not about "I", their about someone, or something else doing something. Take a look at this:

Ex. "The rocks tumbled down the mountain."

In this case, the subject is not a person. It's the rocks doing the tumbling. Still an active sentence, because a subject other than "I" is doing an action.

But how can we use this to get rid of "I"s, you ask? There's actually a really neat trick, possibly based off of personification, but it still works. Instead of saying that "I" do something, you can use a body part directly coorelated to the action. Confusing? Here's an example:

Ex. "I speed up and cross the road in front of the car."

Instead of saying this, using another I, repeating yourself for the bazillionth time, you can change it to the following:

Ans: "My feet speed up and cross the road in front of the car."

See that? I made it an active sentence, because a subject that is not "I" is doing an action. Who cares that the feet belong to me, they're the ones doing it, not I! This is useful for all scenes, but particularly when a character is hesitant. Then it's almost a must.

B) Descriptive Sentence - A sentence that describes things, or people, despite the fact that they changed what they're doing. Quite self-explanatory.

Ex. "The runner was wearing green shorts,"

Ex. "My shoes were starting to grow holes, tearing apart where the big toe is."

Ex. "The tree was almost bare, but it's branches still swung in the breeze."

Notice that the last one here actually contains an action. Why is it a descriptive sentence then? Because it's movement hasn't changed, the branches were waving before we saw them, and will probably continue waving after we leave.

This category also encompasses monologue, even though the forms are different. Monologue is always descriptive, as it describes thoughts. And thoughts can't do anything.

Ex. "There wasn't much left from the feast that had taken place."

Ex. "Why do people even wear shorts on such cold days?"

The problem is that many people put "I" into their monologue, as in the example above. You do not need these because we already know what character is thinking it. The "I" character.

Ex. "I hate people with shorts."

Ans. "People with shorts are so stupid."

Notice that both first and second are an opinion, but the second flows smoother, is more integrated into the story, and doesn't contain "I".

C) Re-Active Sentences - A sentence where "I" do an action. This is the only type of sentence where an "I" cannot be avoided, and is basically about what your character is doing. He's interacting with objects, most of the time.

Ex. "I grab the rake, sprinting around the house to the front lawn."

Ex. "I quickly pull my boots on."

Again, this is the only type of sentence where an "I" cannot be avoided. No exceptions, if you find one then tell me. Of course, some of these sentences can be changed into Active sentences, which is described in more detail at the Active sentences part.


In conclusion, there is basically one way to get rid of "I's - by diversifying your sentences. Except you can do this in several ways:

1. Add more Active or Descriptive sentences.

2. Change the subject to a body part directly correlated to the action.

3. Integrate monologue that begins with "I"

PRACTICE: Try to fix that piece of story above. Remember, "I"s are necessary in some places, but they should be spread out and almost invisible to a reader who isn't looking for them. Paste your finale into the comments!


1. Poison - Chapter 1: Nick's House (http://www.writerscafe.org/writing/debossdude/1666708/)


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Posted 10 Months Ago

Thanks man! It's my pleasure to be included in this! When I get a chance, I will use this on my writing
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Added on December 9, 2015
Last Updated on December 9, 2015
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Hey guys! I'm a sixteen year old writer trying desperately to make something publish-worthy. In the meantime, I hand out useful critiques and comments. Currently trying to work on something diffe..