For example, would you say this section of copy has too many "I's" or even "my's"?

I woke in a daze. A drug induced daze.

I recognized it instantly, the feeling of being disconnected from my limbs. Only this was much heavier than the brain fog of the little blue and red pills I usually had in my system. Heavy enough, that the moment I opened my eyes, my body wanted them to close again. The urge to sleep was strong, but the scratchy texture of cheap sheets beneath my skin irritated my senses enough to hold sleep at bay. Slowly blinking, the room came into focus.

I was all alone.

  • It might be personal taste, but I've recently read a first person book and - apart from being an awful book - the extensive use of I was annoying me to no end. I'd say there is definitely a thing as too many Is. Then again, I've stopped reading books due to excessive use of '(s)he said', which most people say is perfectly fine.
    – user30254
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 11:45
  • 4
    What is the reason for the close vote? It says "off-topic", I don't see that. This is a perfectly valid question that can apply to anybody writing a first-person novel and might be helpful; it is not asking for a review or what to write. The excerpt is an example of writing that might be questionable in order to clarify the meaning of the question; we are not asked to review the quality of word choices or sentence structure or anything else. I vote to leave open.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 14:24

3 Answers 3


"I" has a very specific feeling. Any time it's used like you did in your passage it creates a separation between the main character and the world. The protagonist feels alone, misunderstood against the big world.

I Am Jack's Inflamed Sense of Rejection

For instance in my writing I played between "I" and "We" for effect where I wanted to go between the character feeling like he belonged or not. Compare

We walk to the train station

I walk to the train station, and the other's follow

On the other hand, if you don't want the feeling of isolation or inclusion you should try to avoid that construction. Moving the "I" from the first word in a sentence also lessens the impact.

Overall "I" is a pretty good pronoun. Unlike "He" or "She", there is no congestive load in understanding who "I" is.

  • Thank you so much, I never thought of how the impact of "I" could separate the protagonist from their external world Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 9:11

Yes, but it is not too many if they are necessary. That said, you should strive to eliminate them when they are NOT necessary. The reader knows who the subject of the sentence is. For example, in your *"I recognized it instantly" passage you have 10 "I or My" and use 82 words. Here it is with 4, using 75 words:

I recognized it instantly, the feeling of being disconnected from my limbs. Only this was much heavier than the normal brain fog of the little blue and red pills in my system. Heavy enough, that the moment my eyes opened, they begged to be closed. The urge to sleep was strong, but the scratchy texture of cheap sheets on skin was irritating enough to hold sleep at bay. Slowly blinking, the room came into focus.

Generally, avoiding "I" and "my" holds the potential to make more compact and interesting writing with different sentence constructs, so it will be less boring. But even if such rewording is possible, don't do it if it sounds awkward.



According to How to use... The Pronoun Check:

When you go back and edit ... you should check your pronoun percentage. Ideally it should fall somewhere between 4% and 15%. Any more than this and your writing can feel dull. This is especially so with initial pronouns – those at the start of the sentence. Your initial pronoun percentage should be under 30%.

I don't know where you are in your editing process, but you have eleven pronouns in your ninety-five words, which gives you a percentage of around 11.7%. This should be fine according to the above.

To compare - I'm reading Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby at the moment, and here's a random paragraph from the page I'm on:

As I get older, the tyranny that football exerts over my life, and therefore over the lives of people around me, is less reasonable and less attractive. Family and friends know, after long years of wearying experience, that the fixture list always has the last word in any arrangement; they understand, or at least accept, that christenings or weddings or any gatherings, which in other families would take unquestioned precedence, can only be plotted after consultation. So football is regarded as a given disability that has to be worked around. If I were wheelchair-bound, nobody close to me would organise anything in a top-floor flat, so why would they plan anything for a winter Saturday afternoon?

I counted five pronouns in this piece (one 'I', one 'me', one 'my' and two instance of 'they'). The extract is 116 words long giving it a percentage of around 4.3%. The author uses four different pronouns, even though this is an autobiography, which (you would assume) is mostly about himself and should therefore (logically) consist of 'I', 'me', 'my' and 'mine' (actually it's mostly about Arsenal, but there you go), which offers the reader a little more variety. Also, this extract has more long sentences than yours, which makes a difference to the pronoun percentage.

Personally, when I read your piece, I thought it sounded fine. The pronouns didn't jump up at me like a pack of those giddy little dogs, they just sat there nicely and offered me their paws. That said, try experimenting by removing them one by one to see how that affects the piece. A few of them are amenable to that. But I suppose it all depends on the effect you want to create.

Good luck with your writing.

  • Thank you for the pronoun percentage info, thats great! very useful and I appreciate your feedback. Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 9:06
  • btw, I loved the way you wrote your last paragraph, very cute :) Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 9:07

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