Final draft proof reading nightmare - help!


Ok here goes. Handed in first draft (which I tried to get as close, as close as poss to final draft) to my supervisor a month ago. He got back last week. All great, apart from one or two very minor points (ie write another sentence/ justify one argument a little more) However, he also highlighted many tiny grammatical corrections.

I got in touch with a proof reader who couldn't turn it round it time, but offered to help me with the main issues so as I could do the proof read myself. Anyway, things came up and now I'm worried. "Too much 'first person' commentary" (use of 'I'), "highly entertaining, but needs work on academic register" :-/ All sorts of other things. Not enough "latin" words, too many overly-long sentences blah blah blah. My supervisor has never commented on my use of "I" - in fact, I went through a few books earlier and it appears many scholars in my subject area use "I" a lot.

I wanted to submit on Friday. I was so confident after I got the draft back from my supervisor, because there's obviously no issues with the research/ thesis/ content. Now I'm worried I'll fall down for not being intellectual enough...



If your supervisors aren't raising the issues that the proof reader is then I'd recommend that you ignore the proof reader. In fact I wouldn't have recommended that you hire them, but there you go. Not enough Latin words for instance?! Are you a classics scholar? If not who'd want Latin words!

I had a similar experience, but with a writing skills person at my university. She offered to read my first main chapter. Her feedback was scathing, and very demoralising, and not delivered in an encouraging way either. Really knocked me for six. Then I figured that my supervisors hadn't raised her issues, and I disagreed with most of hers (she was focusing on syntactic rather than semantic things), so I ignored her feedback, and didn't show her any more chapters.

And I sailed through my viva with incredibly minor typographical corrections. So it can be done.

Good luck!


Thanks Bilbo. I'm thinking along those lines...

Can anyone else advise?



It sounds like you have the same symptoms that I have and are tormenting yourself over problems that you didnt think existed in the first place. I would echo Bilbo's advice and say that your writing style is personal. It is your thesis -your book if you like- and how you write it is up to you. with the 'I' thing, remember that lots of old school scholars think it should not be used too much (including one of my supervisors), but depending on your discipline it is completely appropriate to claim you own work in this way (I am in social science/humanities). Your supervisor is presumably in the same field as you so will know whether your register is appropriate, perhaps more so than your proof reader. If examiners ask you about why you are so keen on 'I' you can remind them that feminist theorists have suggested that not using the 'I' is a form of academic violence as it silences the voice of the author and assumes a detached masculinist objectivity which sometimes does not capture the reality of conducting and analysing research (!)

That said, you should try to make your thesis user-friendly so if your sentences are too long, have another look at them and think about making them into two. Or leaving them as they are if that works best for you. Latinate words are fine if appropriate but otherwise can be abstruse and un-user friendly so that advice might be a bit contradictory?

I also think that it is important to write in an academic way, but I would be surprised if you were not doing so if your supervisor hasn't mentioned it. Maybe you should ask them to confirm that it sounds clever enough.

In the end you should just be confident in your work, be pleased with your style and enjoy it. Someone whose job it is to check writing is likely to be a lot more formal and to rely on old-fashioned rules of scholarship rather than engage with the content like you, your supervisors or examiners do.

I hope this helps!


It really does depend on your subject - in my branch of social sciences "I" is a big no-no but in education it is expected (something I really struggled with when I was doing my PGCE in Higehr Education). Not sure about the latin - if it is botany then I would expect latin plant names and many legal terms are expressed in latin but otehrwise ???.

I think the best thing is to speak to your supervisor or another PhD student in your discipline.


I'd lean towards what your supervisor says. If you've used 'I' alot and they've not pulled you up on it then you should be fine. If it was problem they should have mentioned it. Always worth checking with them though if you're unsure. Alternatively are there any theses in the same area/subject as yours so you can double check what the style is in there?

Not enough latin? Depends on the area I guess. I'm in psychology and I have one latin phrase in my thesis, once. And I had to explain what it meant to my supervisor :-) So again, if your supervisors not asking for it I wouldn't worry.


Hi all,

Thank you for your responses. I'm in music and scholars in my discipline use "I" a lot. I'm doing the proof read now and it's a graft having to go through literally every last sentence of it, but I am aiming for 'no revisions' (ambitious, I know)

I've included a few more Latin words, but really they are irrelevant to my subject area. I think my tutor was a pedant to say the least, but I was pretty taken aback when she said "...highly entertaining, but lacking in academic register..." I am fortunate that my supervisor is also one of the biggest "names" in the discipline, so I think I'm going to stick with his advice over the proof reader's.



I agree with the others, stick to the comments by your supervisor rather than the proof reader. Your thesis should be understandable by anyone who has a small amount of knowledge in your area (this is what I was told when writing my thesis - my field is science based). If you have seen the use of 'I' by other academics, then don't worry about it.


Quote From mothlene:

but I was pretty taken aback when she said "...highly entertaining, but lacking in academic register..."

Again that echoes almost exactly what the writing tutor said to me when she read my draft chapter. I was shocked too. My supervisors have no problems with my writing style. Neither did my examiners :)


Quote From mothlene:

I'm doing the proof read now and it's a graft having to go through literally every last sentence of it, but I am aiming for 'no revisions' (ambitious, I know)

I wish you luck, but different people read the same text in different ways, and you can't predict how your examiners react. They might quibble about something that you pass as fine - something low-level and syntactic - or they may have issues with a higher-level meaning issue.

I honestly think it's not a good use of energy/effort to try to do what you're doing. But maybe it will work. I do hope so.


I just think Bilbo, that if I did include all these Latin words, made the grammer 100% perfect and edited every sentence so that it was concise with lots of intellectual words in it, it would strip away every bit of character in my writing. Also, it would then read as if someone else wrote it.

My writing is what it is. Although I'm trying hard to make as many of these little corrections as possible, you are right to advise not to stress too much. My supervisor has told me to submit. He would never, ever have said that if he thought for a moment my thesis wouldn't pass.