What is second-person point of view? Most people have at least heard of first-person writing and third-person writing, and could probably think of an example, but the style of writing that is so often overlooked is second-person point of view. This is likely because the second person writing is some of the rarest writing to come across. It simply isn’t used very much, and certainly not often in fiction writing.
Although it is less common than first and third person in writing, you really ought to understand the second-person point of view and what exactly it means, because you never know when you might be asked to identify it or even write in second person yourself. So, we’ve put together a helpful guide explaining everything you need to know!
Second-Person Point of View
What is Second-Person Point of View?
The second-person point of view is a writing style that a writer uses to place the reader in a situation. Essentially, second person tries to communicate with the writer’s audience directly by always talking about them. It’s as though the writer is telling the reader what happened to the reader. If things are still a little unclear, don’t worry. Second-person point of view is much better understood through examples than it is through explanation. Below we’ll take a look at second-person pronouns, so you can understand the main differences between them and first and third-person pronouns.
Although second person writing can seem a little complicated, you’ll be happy to hear that there is only ever one root pronoun used in second-person writing, so it’s easy enough for you to spot and use in your own writing if you are ever asked to write in the second person. The only pronouns you’ll ever come across in second person writing is “You”, “Your”, and “Yours”.
It doesn’t matter if the writer is talking about a group of people (plural) or one person (singular) the pronouns will always be the same. This is because the writer is trying to tell a story about the reader. Sometimes ‘You’ the individual, and sometimes ‘You’ the group.
In fiction, for example, you might have seen ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style stories in which you might be told to turn to a certain page after making a certain choice. Usually, you’ll see sentences like “You unlock the door with the skeleton shaped key. A roar breaks out from the room in front of you. You try to run, but your path has been blocked.“.
You see, the writer is putting you in the driving seat of the story. You are making the decisions and it is you that is supposed to be the main character. If that seems a little confusing still, then why not take a look at that sentence again from a first-person point of view, and then a third-person point of view.
First Person Example
If we take the same sentence from above and try to turn it into first person, we need to change the main character to the writer. Remember, first-person point of view is somebody recounting what happened to themselves. So, it’ll look something like this:
- I unlocked the door with the skeleton shaped key. A roar broke out from the room in front of me. I tried to run, but my path was blocked.
It’s easy to understand which style of writing it is if you just ask yourself ‘who is the main character?’. If it’s the person telling the story, it’s first person, if it’s the reader, then it’s second person point of view.
Third Person Example
If we try to change that sentence into third person, we need to change the main character again. Third person is somebody recounting a story about what happened to somebody else. So, it would look like this:
- She unlocked the door with the skeleton shaped key. A roar broke out from the room in front of her. She tried to run, but her path was blocked.
Again if you ask yourself ‘who is the main character’, or ‘who is the writer telling the story about’, you’ll notice that this is third person straight away. If the writer is telling a story about themselves, it’s first person. If a writer is telling a story about the reader, it’s second person point of view. And if the writer is telling a story about somebody else, it’s third person.
Let’s take a look at some more second person writing examples so you get used to the sort of sentences you might read and write in the second person, or even hear in conversation or speeches.
Examples of Writing in Second Person
“Your heart started to beat the moment you looked through the door. It was obvious. You were in love; you wanted them to be yours.” The writer in this case is telling a story about the reader. They are trying to put the reader in an imagined scenario directly. This writing technique is often used as a way of making a reader feel more connected to the story. Remember in second person writing you should always look for “You”, “Your”, and “Yours”.
“You didn’t study for the test. It’s your own fault that you failed. You haven’t been trying hard enough.” This is an example of speech that you could hear in a classroom for example (although we hope that teachers aren’t quite so cruel). Here the teacher we have imagined is telling the listener’s story for them. The teacher is trying to recount a story about the listener. It work’s in exactly the same way as it does in fiction writing, and the teacher is probably using this technique to make the listener feel more connected to what they are saying so they don’t fail the next test.
When using second-person point of view in speech or in writing, for fiction or for non-fiction, the purpose is almost universally the same: to make the reader or listener feel more connected to what you are saying. You’re trying to put them in the driver’s seat so they have to listen or read a little more actively.
Hopefully this guide has helped you to understand second-person point of view a little more!