In the past, you might have had problems getting that polished, professional feel to your essays, but you couldn’t quite figure out why. Are your ideas too underdeveloped? Is your thesis statement not good enough? Do you not have enough support for your arguments?
Sometimes the problem with your essay is simply the point of view you choose to write in. Using third-person writing can make a world of difference in giving your essay the right tone.
Three Different Points of View
If you’re not sure what the different points of view are, I’ll give you a run-down and some examples to help you see more clearly. And for an added bonus, I’ll give you a couple clips from the king of narration himself, Morgan Freeman.
When you write in first person, you use I and me. Think of yourself as the “first person”–any pronoun that indicates something you do or think is going to be first person. You see this a lot when you’re reading books from the main character’s perspective.
Typically, however, first-person writing is not very effective in writing essays. (We’ll get to why that is in a second.)
Example: I believe that third-person writing is the best point of view when writing an essay.
First-person writing or narration also uses us and we, as you’ll see in this example:
Second-person point of view uses the pronoun you. Second-person writing is the equivalent to a choose-your-own-adventure novel or a self-help book. It speaks directly to the audience.
However, the conversational tone of writing in second-person is not usually ideal for academic writing.
Example: You would do better on your essays if you wrote in third person.
It is important to note that when you aren’t writing strictly in third person, the point of view can shift from sentence to sentence.
In the next example, you’ll notice that both first-person and second-person points of view are present. The lyrics Freeman reads shift between using “you/your” and first-person singular pronouns throughout the clip.
Third-person writing uses the pronouns they, him, her, and it, as well as proper nouns. This is the type of writing you would see in a novel with an outside narrator.
Example: Teachers and students agree that third-person writing makes essays sound better.
Here’s one last video example, this one using third-person perspective, from the man with the golden voice:
Why Third-Person Writing is Important
Third-Person Writing Makes Your Essay Sound More Assertive.
If you write your essay in first person, you risk the chance of statements like “I think” or “I believe.” These kinds of statements sound more passive than just stating your facts. Notice the difference between the following sentences:
This is why I believe jazz is the first form of truly American music.
This is why jazz is the first form of truly American music.
The second sentence–the one that uses third-person–sets a more definite tone. You are presenting the sentence as a statement of fact instead of a personal belief.
Third-Person Writing Makes Your Support Sound More Credible.
On a related note, first-person writing makes your support sound like it’s coming from a non-credible source. Presenting facts or opinions with “I think” or “I believe” in front doesn’t give any validity to the statement.
Third-person writing encourages you to use other sources to validate your claims. The following two sentences will illustrate this further:
I believe that children should consume less sugar because it leads to higher risk of obesity.
According to the Obesity Action Coalition, children who consume a lot of sugar have an increased risk of obesity.
The second sentence pulls an authoritative source to support the claim instead of you, the writer. This makes the claim more credible to the reader.
Third-Person Writing Sounds Less Conversational and More Professional.
As I mentioned before, writing in the first or second person leads to a more conversational tone. While this may be good for some forms of writing (this blog post, for example), you want your academic writing to take on a more formal tone. Consider the following examples:
When writing a novel, you should think about what kind of tone you want to portray before choosing which point of view you want to use.
When writing a novel, authors should think about the kind of tone they want to portray before choosing which point of view they want to use.
The first sentence creates a more intimate and conversational tone with the reader, but the second sentence tells the reader what kind of person (authors) would benefit from reading the sentence.
It is more specific and, therefore, creates a more formal tone.
Exceptions to the Third-Person Writing Rule
I won’t ever tell you that it’s always a good idea to write one specific way. Third-person writing is usually a good idea in academic writing, but there are cases where first-person writing is a better call.
When You’re Writing A Personal Narrative.
Personal narrative essays are designed to tell the reader something that has happened in your life, so first-person writing would be the preferred choice here. Whether it be something that embarrassed you, angered you, or made you proud or happy, narrative essays are all about real-world life experiences.
When You’re Talking About Your Own Opinions.
Like narrative essays, using your own opinions in essays may sometimes require the use of the first person, especially if you are drawing on personal experiences. Usually, this will happen in persuasive essays.
It is important to note that you should still try to use third-person writing for your persuasive essays because, as I mentioned earlier, it will give a more formal tone and more credibility to your argument. However, if some personal experience is especially relevant, it would be okay to use the first person (unless your teacher says otherwise, of course).
When You’re Doing Other Informal Types of Writing.
Essays are not the only types of writing assignments you’re likely to receive. Short stories and poetry pop up in classes from time to time, and these can be written any number of ways. Short stories can take the first- or third-person perspective–they rarely use second person. Poetry can use any of the three points of view.
(For more, read When to Use First-Person Writing in Your Essays)
When you are concentrating strictly on academic essays, third-person writing is (usually) crucial. And it’s not hard to do. Just look at any references to yourself or the reader and change around the sentence to eliminate the I, me, you, we, and us pronouns. Doing so will make your writing stronger, clearer, and more professional.
If you still can’t quite get the hang of third-person writing, there’s no need to stress out over it. Just send your essay to one of the Kibin editors to help you out.
Now… go try your hand at third-person writing!
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
A personal narrative is a story about an important incident or experience that has taken place in a person’s life. The author shares the experience, thoughts, emotions and sometimes the lessons learned or knowledge gained during the course of the events.
To plan a narrative, decide on the story, recall or construct the setting, facts or events, the people and the emotions involved in the incident or event. A fictional story may draw on emotions from one’s own life injected into similar imagined events to give the narrative authenticity. Making a diagram or notes may help you plan your story.
Narratives are usually written in either the first (‘I’, ‘we’) or third (‘he/she’, ‘they’) person, far less often in second person (‘you’). Third person narratives can sound more formal than those written in the first person. They allow a distance from the main characters not possible when the person involved is telling the story in their own voice. It also gives authors more flexibility, allowing them to change point of view to another character without confusing the reader.
Planning a 3rd person narrative:
- Decide on an incident or experience as a focal point of the story
- Who will be the narrator? Do they have a bias or point of view, or are they objective?
- Who is the main character? You may need an additional one or two other characters.
- Setting – Where does the story take place?
- Decide on a plot structure. What are the main events, points along the way, the climax of the story, and its resolution? You may need to brainstorm and/or plot what happens on a graph to keep your story on track.
Structure of 3rd Person Narrative
A narrative text usually contains the following three parts:
- Orientation – start in the middle of the action, involving the main character from the start.
- Complication – where conflict, tension or a problem is created.
- Resolution – the problem is resolved, sometimes with a twist.
- 3rd person ‘he’, ‘she’, as though the narrator is watching the event take place.
- Language will suit both the characters and the setting (time and place).
- Use language conventions – sentence and paragraph structure, speech marks etc.
- Your narrative will include action, description, realistic dialogue and reflection (without preaching).
- Use variety in your writing style: a mixture of short and long sentences, hard-hitting action sequences and longer poetic descriptions, short snatches of dialogue and longer paragraphs which create atmosphere and suspense.
- Show don’t tell! Try not to state the obvious; use finesse.
Brainstorm, draft, (if you get stuck, start from whichever point you can), write, let your writing sit a day or two, read aloud to yourself several times, check all of the points above, rewrite.
These websites give you more advice about writing a personal narrative in third person voice:
Personal Narrative Writing
Take note of these helpful hints from great writers:
Here is an example of a narrative of a personal incident written in 3rd person voice.
For the length of narratives written at school and for the QCST, it is recommended that the action of the story happens within no more than a ten minute time frame.
Adapted from an original piece by Loretta D.