I am writing a grant application as a sole PI, and it is not clear to me whether I should use singular or plural terms. As an example, currently I have a sentence like this:

"Based on previous work, I got to the conclusion that the present approach X to problem Y is inappropriate. Therefore, in paper Z we developed an alternative approach which I plan to pursue further in the proposed research.

The reason for the switches between "I" and "we" is that the conclusion is mine, but paper Z is a paper I wrote with a coauthor, and the plan to pursue this further is again mine alone. While the terms reflect the reality, it seems bad English to switch back and forth between singular and plural.

In usual research papers, I often use "we" even when I am a sole coauthor, since this is convenient and quite common in my field (computer science). However, using "we" in a personal grant application seems inappropriate.

What is a better style for writing sentences such as the above?

2 Answers 2


My personal rule of thumb is that we (e.g. the project team) share the work and acknowledgements for the produced results, but I (e.g. the PI) propose, plan and manage the project and I am responsible for the delivery of results.


Your paragraph is less informative than, perhaps, it should be. If you give citations for each claim then it becomes clear. Give a reference after "previous work" and "paper Z", etc. Then the I and we is obvious.

I think that readers of a grant application will want those citations, actually. "What previous work...?"

But an "Royal we" is often used as you say, but it would be a consistent usage. And it could sometimes be interpreted as "we = researchers in the field generally"

  • Sure, in the actual proposal I give citations. I just wanted to focus on the pronouns. Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 13:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .