Edit for Point of View

To identify ineffective uses of point of view, 1) identify the various points of view in your writing; and 2) decide if the points of view achieve their purpose and will not inadvertently alienate the reader.

1. Identify the various points of view in a piece of writing.

Ex: The American public is underinformed about important news from other countries. When you only watch local cable news or get your news from American websites, you miss out on reading about events like the Arab Spring and the tsunami in Japan.

In this example, the first sentence has a subject in 3rd-person point of view, the American public. The second sentence’s use of you gives it a 2nd-person point of view.

2. Decide if the points of view achieve their purpose and will not inadvertently alienate the reader.

Ex: The American public is underinformed about important news from other countries. When you only watch local cable news or get your news from American websites, you miss out on reading about events like the Arab Spring and the tsunami in Japan.

In the first sentence, 3rd-person point of view achieves the purpose of identifying who the writer thinks is underinformed: the American public. In the second sentence, though, it is unclear what purpose the 2nd-person you is intended to achieve. Why is the writer speaking directly to me, the reader? Moreover, the writer risks alienating me by seeming to assume that I am definitely uninformed. How (potentially) offensive!

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