What Is Point of View? In writing, point of view refers to whether the writing takes on a singular or plural perspective in either 1st person, 2nd person, or 3rd person. First person is the perspective of the writer; 1st person uses words like “I,” “my,” “me,” or “we.” 2nd-person is the perspective of the ...
For many novice academic writers, the decision of whether to use first-person or third-person voice is determined by several factors. First and third-person refers to the point of view the author adopts, where first-person uses the singular and plural pronouns “I,” “we,” “me,” and “us,” as in “I argue that,” and third-person uses “she,” “he,” “it,” or “they.” Often times, academic writers will identify the subject in the third-person, as in “Stone argues that,” or “The researchers suggest.”
The Beginning of Your Journey
You are writing for a class. You realize that you have no idea what point-of-view is appropriate for this piece of writing. You quickly text a friend but discover that she does not know. Your teacher is currently teaching subject/verb agreement to a nest of talking dragons and is not available. Desperate for help, you head into the forest to the fabled Point-of-View Castle. Dodging past giant spiders, enormous werewolves, and cute little pixies (who are surely up to no good), you arrive at the castle to discover that you can choose from one of three bridges across a moat filled with ravenous alligators. On each bridge stands a wizard who wants to talk to you. All three wear long, flowing robes and have the required gray beards and mystical staffs of power. Each robe has a word written on it. What do you do?
Many times, high school students are told not to use first person (“I,” “we,” “my,” “us,” and so forth) in their essays. As a college student, you should realize that this is a rule that can and should be broken—at the right time, of course.
By now, you’ve probably written a personal essay, memoir, or narrative that used first person. After all, how could you write a personal essay about yourself, for instance, without using the dreaded “I” word?
The first person—“I,” “me,” “my,” etc.—can be a useful and stylish choice in academic writing, but inexperienced writers need to take care when using it.
There are some genres and assignments for which the first person is natural. For example, personal narratives require frequent use of the first person (see, for example, "Employing Narrative in an Essay). Profiles, or brief and entertaining looks at prominent people and events, frequently employ the first person. Reviews, such as for movies or restaurants, often utilize the first person as well. Any writing genre that involves the writer’s taste, recollections, or feelings can potentially utilize the first person.
Look at the following lines and determine how you might revise them so that they remove the pronoun “you” or define the pronoun “we”:
- You can understand what it’s like to have a stack of papers to grade and only two days to do it.
- We now know that cigarettes can cause various types of cancer.
- I would like you to understand that not all students are lazy.
- We believe that gay marriage is not immoral or harmful to the American family; as such, we argue that it should be legalized.
- Doughnuts are really harmful to our health, so we should stop ingesting them.
When is third-person point of view used?
Third person is used when a degree of objectivity is intended, and it is often used in academic documents, such as research and argument papers. This perspective directs the reader’s attention to the subject being presented and discussed. Third person personal pronouns include he, she, it, they, him, her, them, his, her, hers, its, their, and theirs.
When is second person point of view used?
Second person point of view is often used for giving directions, offering advice, or providing an explanation. This perspective allows the writer to make a connection with his or her audience by focusing on the reader. Second person personal pronouns include you, your, and yours.
Examples of sentences written from the second person point of view:
- You should put your cell phone in the trunk if you want to resist the temptation to use it while you are driving.
- When you write an academic paper, keep in mind that the appearance of your paper can make a positive or negative impression on your reader.
When is first person point of view used?
First person point of view is often used in personal narrative—when the writer is telling a story or relating an experience. This perspective is writer’s point of view, and the writer becomes the focal point. First person personal pronouns include I, we, me, us, my, mine, our, and ours.
Examples of sentences written from the first person point of view:
- I was only seven years old when my family moved to the United States.
- We took a vacation that allowed us to explore our nation from east to west and north to south.