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I think I agree with you though, if the paper important and serious then it should be 'one' and not 'you' and that is what they should learn to use.

Scientific papers have traditionally avoided the problem by using the passive voice, for example: "It can be seen that..." However that does make for rather heavy reading.

John Hall
"Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing."
Sir Ralph Richardson (1902-83)
"Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing."
Sir Ralph Richardson (1902-83)
Which is not to be sneezed at :-)

John Briggs
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I'd think that you're probably right to advise your students to avoid generic "you". An accomplished writer could happily use it because the reader would know that he/she is doing so deliberately. Students may not give that impression. As has been said, the passive voice is commonly used to avoid the problem in the most formal writing. It can sound rather stilted if overused (though not as bad as overused "one" which becomes ludicrous) but that may not be a problem in the exam setting.

Phil C.
"Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing." Sir Ralph Richardson (1902-83) Which is not to be sneezed at :-)

Whereas snooker is the art of encouraging a large group of people to cough.

Phil C.
spending a sunny bank holiday Monday indoors marking essays, I ... especially in an (mock) exam paper. What do you think?

Both of the last two editions of Fowler raise objections to the mixture of generic 'one' with generic 'you' within ... to be disappearing from common (as opposed to incorrect) use. (Anyway, science students can't speak English, let alone write it.)

Away from science, gentle reader, some writers have always maintained the pretence of talking to the reader individually so perhaps we have to include a "sort-of-generic you" in our list of options. I always thought, BTW, that the famous line "Reader I married him" in Jane Eyre was a bit weak. "Reader I shagged him" would have had more dramatic effect. No? Just me then.
We've also got a generic "we" which seems to be used in science lectures (and above). "Thus we see that..." I don't know if it's ever used in formal scientific writing.

Phil C.
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I think I agree with you though, if the paper ... 'you' and that is what they should learn to use.

Scientific papers have traditionally avoided the problem by using the passive voice, for example: "It can be seen that..." However that does make for rather heavy reading.

Ah yes, that's true enough.
spending a sunny bank holiday Monday indoors marking essays, I came across a wording which surprises me a bit (especially ... students), I would expect to find it in written language, especially in an (mock) exam paper. What do you think?

In the context of formal essays, more so with scientific ones, it's more common to read: "It" may be seen > noted, ... "There" may be seen ... also using nouns for "it" and "there" to avoid repetition. Wouldn't mark down in a mock but would certainly underline and provide alternatives for preferred usage to illustrate why "you" will detract from the overall tenor of the paper.

paul (C) © 2005 is mine
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Both of the last two editions of Fowler raise objections ... (Anyway, science students can't speak English, let alone write it.)

Away from science, gentle reader, some writers have always maintained the pretence of talking to the reader individually so perhaps ... in science lectures (and above). "Thus we see that..." I don't know if it's ever used in formal scientific writing.

In scientific publications the usage is quite clear: "you" is NEVER used, "we" only if general truths are discussed, which can be checked by everyone, and "one" together with passive voice are both used equally. Usually the form "one" is prefered in journals that set a length limit, since passive voice takes more space.
I cannot say to what extend these rules apply to everyday language, let alone to highschool essays.
Cheers
Sas
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Away from science, gentle reader, some writers have always maintained ... don't know if it's ever used in formal scientific writing.

In scientific publications the usage is quite clear: "you" is NEVER used, "we" only if general truths are discussed, which ... equally. Usually the form "one" is prefered in journals that set a length limit, since passive voice takes more space.

Can you cite a source for your very precise and definitive statement of the "rules"?
Regards, Einde O'Callaghan
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