First vs. second vs. third-person points of view! Writing is a powerful and creative way to deliver information, thoughts, and messages. Authors have different styles that make their work unique and artistic. But a literary material has to be relatable and engaging for it to draw readers in. The effectiveness of an article or story largely depends on which point of view it is written from.
A point of view is the perspective that the author uses to communicate with his readers. It is a significant literary device that identifies how the readers participate or view the whole idea of the story. Three different points of view can be used in writing: the first-person, the second-person, and the third-person.
This article shall compare and contrast those three points of view as it emphasizes when to use each one of them. As an example for each point of view, the corresponding descriptions will be mostly (but not entirely) written from the point of view that it describes.
When To Use The First-Person Point Of View
If I use the words I, me, my, mine, and myself, that means that I am writing in the first-person point of view. I can also use we, our, us, and ourselves. I make articles in the first person if I want the readers to relate to my own experiences, mirror my thoughts, and know my opinions.
When it comes to novels, I write in this style because I want the readers to feel with the protagonist and to picture out what the protagonist is seeing. I describe and relay the feelings and movements like it is my own. This makes the story more detailed and believable. And if I am the reader, I only get to know what a specific person is feeling or seeing without knowing the thoughts of the other characters. Thus, it creates intrigue and mystery. In fact, many of the famous novels are written in the first-person.
The first-person point of view is further divided into two types, which is the first-person central and first-person peripheral.
- First-Person Central – In this type, the narrator is also the protagonist. The main character of the story is the one telling the incidents and situations. If I write in this way, I have to be clearly descriptive of the emotions as if I actually feel them. I have to stay in character to maintain credibility.
- First-Person Peripheral – The narrator is not the protagonist but rather a witness of the story that narrates the happenings circling the main characters. This creates a focus on the main character’s life while maintaining the mystery.
Aside from novels, autobiographies and diaries are mostly written from this point of view, too. An autobiography is a story of the life of the author. Therefore, the use of the first-person viewpoint is appropriate and natural. In technical writing, the first-person is also most commonly used in reports, memos, and business and academic letters that involve credentials and personal opinions.
When To Use The Second-Person Point Of View
The second-person point of view employs the words you, your, and yourself. It is a mode of writing where you relay the story or situation to the readers as if it is their own. This gives the reader the central role. In fictional writing, the second-person point of view transforms the reader as the protagonist. However, it is rarely used compared to the first-person and third-person ones. It is said to be the hardest to pull off when writing fiction since it is quite unconventional and confining.
The second-person perspective is rather widely used in technical writing, speeches, songs, and advertising. You should choose to write in second-person if you have to enumerate directions, mention advice, and give imperatives. It’s concise, direct, and personal, making it the best choice when constructing and relaying instructions. It’s also often used with procedural types of materials that allow readers to follow a step-by-step process, such as in manuals. With this perspective, you talk to the audience directly and get them engaged in the story or the article.
Like the first-person, the second-person point of view is also divided into two categories. The second-person singular directly addresses only a single reader. The second-person plural, on the other hand, refers to a group of individuals. If you use the second-person point of view, you’ll be able to converse well with your audience. You may actually do it in a casual tone, just like talking to a friend. However, it may not be suitable for formal letters and technical write-ups.
When To Use The Third-Person Point Of View
The third-person point of view is the primary choice when writing business and scientific reports, reference books, researches, and other types of technical writing. This style creates a more detached tone, which implies formality and measure. Here, the writer mainly employs the pronouns he, she, they, him, her, and them. Since it is less casual, it is the type of writing preferred to be used in professional and legal documents.
When it comes to journalism, news articles are written objectively, thus in a third-person perspective. This is to get rid of bias and to not allow personal opinions to surface. It is also the recommended point of view to use in thesis papers. Apart from its formality, it also emphasizes the separation of personal viewpoints from investigated facts. Thus, you tend to write as an observer.
In fictional writing, the third-person is also widely favored along with the first-person. Through this, the author acts as an observer rather than the doer or center of the story. It provides a broader perspective as the author does not delimit himself when describing the event. This is especially emphasized with the third-person multiple that lets him switch from one character to another instead of just focusing on a single one. He helps the reader see and know what every character feels or does. However, the disadvantage of this is that there’s no much connection with the reader. It is less personal but more formal and distant.
In summary, for fictional and creative writing, such as in novels, short stories, and poetry, the first- and third-person points of view are most commonly used. You may use both alternately to achieve free and more artistic writing. When expressing thoughts and opinions, choose the first-person perspective. For imperatives and instructional materials, the second-person point of view is more compelling and engaging. For more formal documents like newsletters, thesis papers, and legal materials, use the third-person point of view.