Point of View: First, Second & Third Person
- Track Progress
- 0:07 What is Point of View?
- 1:07 First Person
- 1:49 Second Person
- 2:47 Third Person
- 4:17 Lesson Summary
Point of view allows you to show the reader the perspective in which a piece should be examined. This video will help guide you figure out which point of view to use in your writing.
What is Point of View?
Point of view is the perspective from which a writer tells a story or narrative. There are three types of point of view in writing: first-, second- and third-person. Point of view in writing is just as important as point of view in film. Think about a horror movie where the camera is just behind the main character, looking at her back. If you feel like you're following the character, but she's unaware of your presence, you may get the feeling that she is in danger. Depending on the kind of mood the director wants to create, he or she can choose a different point of view to help contribute to that mood. You can do the same thing in writing if you know which point of view to use.
Choosing a point of view for your essay can greatly affect your reader's experience. We're going to look at three different points of view - first-person, second-person and third-person - and discuss different situations where those points of view are appropriate in academic writing.
The first-person point of view writes from personal experience. The pronouns used in first person include 'I,' 'me,' 'we' or 'us.' The author is telling his or her own story and asking the reader to take the point of view of the author.
The first-person point of view tends to be more personal, and while it isn't often found in academic writing, there are occasions when it is welcome. For instance, when writing a review of something like a book or article, writing in first person is a good way of showing how you experienced it as the reader. An example of first-person narrative would be the Martin Luther King speech 'I Have a Dream.'
The second-person point of view writes from the perspective of teaching, guiding or instructing the reader. Second-person narrative has a personal tone that addresses the reader directly with the use of pronouns like 'you.' Second person is most often employed in writing when the goal is explicitly to teach the reader something; for example, writing a self-help guide.
Second person isn't often used in academic writing because it puts the writer in a position of authority, while academic writing tends more toward allowing the reader to judge and analyze for him or herself. The tone can feel a bit forceful if the reader didn't specifically want to be taught but rather wished to simply be informed or see a different perspective. In academic writing, it is safe to simply avoid writing in the second-person narrative. An example of second-person narrative is the Harry Beckwith book You, Inc.: The Art of Selling Yourself.
The third-person point of view writes from a more generalized perspective. It allows the writer to distance himself or herself from the writing a bit, being more of a reporter of the information rather than an owner of it.
The pronouns often employed in third-person narratives are 'they,' 'them,' 'he,' 'she' and 'it,' as well as 'one.' In fact, 'one' often fills the space that would have been employed using 'I' in first-person or 'you' in second-person narrative. Third-person narrative is the preferred point of view in academic writing. Whenever in doubt on the most appropriate tone, third-person narrative should always be used as the default point of view.
An example of writing from the third-person narrative is Tim O'Brien's book The Things They Carried. However, most academic journal articles and textbooks will be written in third-person narrative. The reason third-person narrative is preferred in academic writing is because it lends itself to displaying the least amount of bias from the author's perspective. Also, because the narrative is written outside the point of view of both the writer and the reader, the reader is allowed to more easily form his or her own conclusion. Finally, since the third-person narrative is a more general narrative, it is easier to compare and contrast various works of similar topics.
This video examined the concept of point of view, which is the perspective from which a writer tells a story. There are three narrative tones employed in writing: first, second and third person. Writing in first person gives the point of view from the perspective of the writer and uses personal pronouns including 'I,' 'me,' 'we' or 'us.' Second-person narrative puts the writer in the position of teaching, instructing or guiding the reader, using the pronoun 'you.' Third-person narrative is from a more generalized perspective, using the pronouns 'he,' 'she,' 'it,' 'them' and 'one.'
Third person is the most common narrative in academic writing and should be used as the default when one is unsure of the most appropriate narrative for a piece. Third-person narrative is the preferred narrative for academic writing because it allows the reader to form his or her own view, is less prone to extreme bias and allows writings of similar themes to be more easily compared and contrasted. A good way to check the narrative in which you are writing is to consider the pronouns you are using. 'I,' 'me,' 'we,' 'you,' 'they,' 'she' and 'them' all help to position the point of view the piece is being written in.
Ask Our Experts
Response times may vary by topic.
Our experts can answer your question related to:
- Requirements for Different Careers
- Enrolling in College
- Transferring Credit
- And More…
Chapters in English 104: College Composition
People are saying…
"This just saved me about $2,000 and 1 year of my life." — Student
"I learned in 20 minutes what it took 3 months to learn in class." — Student