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I'm writing an acknowledgment for my thesis. I looked at several written acknowledgments and realized that the people who are acknowledged are addressed by "you" rather than "He/She". For example,

"I'm thankful to Dr. Marry. You have been the weekly contact ...."

But I personally prefer to address them in a 3rd person format saying "She has been the weekly contact".

I'm wondering if my preference is wrong and not common.

  • I strongly suggest using 3rd person in this case, for the reasons nicely outlined below in the Daniel Wessel's answer (+1). – Aleksandr Blekh Feb 11 '16 at 19:49
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I'd go (and did go) with the 3rd person format, for a simple reason: It's not a letter to that one person, nor a (handwritten) dedication/signed copy of a thesis. Instead it is something that is printed and which is (hopefully) read by more than this one person.

So you talk to a broad audience about that person, hence 3rd person. Only if it were a handwritten, personal message in one particular copy, I would ever go with "you".

(Another exception could be a dedication. In contrast to the acknowledgements the dedication is more specific and -- usually -- to one person or specific group of people, like family. In this case 'you' might also make sense, because here you address them personally.)

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In my thesis I made an acknowledgement infographics. The logic was simply that nobody wants to read a dry acknowledgement page, so the best way to thank them is to make people want to read the page. In fact my thesis was often taken out of the shelf in my PhD department solely to look at it.

EDIT: here it is.

  • 4
    What a great idea! – Aru Ray Feb 12 '16 at 7:20
  • it's a good idea however i cannot put weight on the factors that contributed and helped me with the thesis. – Ehsan Feb 13 '16 at 19:00
  • I assume that you refer to the fact that the values are set without mathematical calculations. I did give some thought to guestimate the values, but the contributions follow a power law and some of the people acknowledged did not do much (bar for being important). I did get jovially asked what the units were and what the boundary conditions were, but nobody doubted that I was bad at maths simply because I had unitless arbitrary values in my infographic acknowledgement page. – Matteo Ferla Feb 13 '16 at 19:25
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I will offer a contrary opinion: thesis acknowledgements are generally yours with which to do whatever you wish, within reason. If you prefer second person, this is the one piece of scientific writing where you can definitely get away with it. If you want to write it in a sonnet, that's OK too.

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I advocate for a mixed approach. In my thesis acknowledgements, each individual was initially introduced in the third person, essentially for the reasons Daniel Wessel has mentioned above. The goal is for the Acknowledgements section to be read by more people than just the ones you are acknowledging.

However, for a proper subset of the acknowledged individuals, namely those I wanted to highlight, I included short personal messages in the second person. The goal was to highlight these individuals, break the monotony of just listing names, and inject something personal and heartfelt into the text.

Here is an example:

I am deeply indebted to Professor Dumbledore for his constant and genuine support of all his students. I would not be where I am today without him. Albus, I miss you every day.

The actual acknowledgements I wrote can be found on my website (within my thesis) if you're interested.

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    Great idea, essentially the best of both approaches. :-) – Daniel Wessel Feb 12 '16 at 9:08
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Over the last couple of months, I have "read" plenty of PhD theses, and almost all exclusively used a 3rd person format, e.g. you might say

I am thankful to Dr. Marry for being my weekly contact ...

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