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 reader being directly addressed by the writer; 2nd person uses words like “you,” “your,” or “us.” ; and
- 3rd-person is the perspective of a different party who is neither writer nor reader. 3rd person uses words like “she,” “his,” or “they.”
Point of view can typically be identified by which pronouns are used. See the chart below for a quick summary.
|Point of View||Pronoun|
|First Person||I, Me, My/Mine We, Us, Our/Ours|
|Second Person||You, Your/Yours|
|Third Person||He, Him, His She, Her/Hers It, Its, They, Them, Their/ Theirs|
What are common reasons to choose a particular point of view?
Different points of view can be applied to different writing purposes. There are far too many reasons to choose a point of view to list them all here. This list provides three common uses for the various points of view:
Common uses of 1st person
- Memoirs. Memoirs are all about someone’s personal experiences, so memoir authors use I frequently to describe what has happened to them and how they felt about it.
- Certain academic disciplines. Some academic disciplines, like women’s studies and rhetoric and composition, value the inclusion of personal experience as research material, so scholars will use I and we in their work.
Common uses of 2nd person
- Directions and Self-help books. Self-help books aim to improve their readers in some way, so the authors use you to speak directly to those readers and prompt them to reflect on themselves or take action.
- Advertisements. Advertisements target specific audiences in order to make sales, and the use of you (e.g. “Do you need cash fast?”) can prompt a viewer to identify with the ad’s target audience.
Common uses of 3rd person
- Quotes. When relaying quotations from other speakers or writers, authors will identify the source of the quotation in 3rd person, as in “He wrote that…”
- News stories. Journalism generally strives to impart objective information. By using only 3rd person, journalism avoids the overly personal tone of I and you.
Here are the common ways third person is used in an academic paper:
Note: While the above pronouns represent the third person, instead of using it, that, these, those or this, specific words or phrases will better help readers follow the writer’s logic.
How do you change first or second person to third person?
Here is a table that shows several common instances of first or second person in essays and some examples of how to revise to the third person.