Points of View in Writing
There are three different points of view that can be used in writing: first person, second person, and third person. In academic writing, the third person point of view is usually clearer and allows a writer to come across as more credible. As you move toward more formal writing, you will want to write in third person point of view.
- First person relies on the use of the pronoun “I.” This is the point of view used when writing a personal narrative essay, as you do in weeks one and two. However, it is generally best to avoid referring to yourself, when writing a persuasive or critical essay. Statements like “I believe” or “I think” tend to weaken writing and are better when written in the third person. (example: “The U.S. government needs to pass this law” is better and stronger than “I believe the U.S. government needs to pass this law.”)
- Second person uses the pronoun “you” to refer to the reader. In second person, you are talking directly to the reader. This can be awkward and can alienate the reader. Consider this:
- “You left the baby in the car and it was 110 degrees outside. What were you thinking? Do you want to kill your baby?” As opposed to: “She left the baby in the car while chatting on her phone. It was 110 degrees. What was she thinking? Did she want to kill the baby?”
- Most academic writing does not use 2nd person point of view.
- Third Person involves directly stating who is being written about without using the words I, me, we, us, or you.
To clarify, here are examples of sentences written in the various points of view:
- First person: I should learn how to write well.
- Second person: You should learn how to write well.
- Third person: College students should learn how to write well.
As mentioned earlier, most academic essays should be written almost entirely in the third person. The second person should be avoided, and the first person should only be used when using personal examples that help support claims made in the essay. In addition to enhancing credibility, another reason to write primarily in the third person is because frequent changes in point of view can create confusion for the reader.
Respond to the prompts below in no less than 250 words. Be sure to use as many sensory details as possible.
- Using first person point of view – “I” – describe your favorite holiday.
- Using second person point of view – “you” – describe a place that everyone should visit at least once.
- Using third person point of view –“he or she”– describe a person you admire. or a person you dislike (this can be fictional)
Sample description using second person point of view: “You stand in the steaming kitchen with people you haven’t seen in almost a year. You wish your shirt didn’t have that tiny stain on the cuff. You wish your aunt’s laugh wasn’t quite so brittle. Feet stomp on the porch and you hurry to let your tall uncle in, forgetting to keep the dog from escaping outside…”