Writing Tip: Point Of View

Tips on how to write effective non-fiction. Delves into the differences between first person and third person points of view.

Do point of views and perspectives perplex you? I know that I was when I first started writing. In the past, I had English Professors put the fear of God in me. I thought that I had to make a choice between the first person and the third person. That is not the case. You probably have heard references to these terms, but you may not be completely sure what they are.

An example of the first person:

I want to help you understand how the importance of using both persons is critical to a writer.

An example of the third person:

By reading this article, hopefully he will see the importance of using both persons at the appropriate time.

Many aspiring writers like to write about their personal experiences, which is good, but too many new authors tend to write only from only their perspective. It is a good idea to create a habit of thinking in the third person when you create an article. It is fine to use a few references to personal experience for effect, depending on your audience, but you should refrain from allowing your non-fiction to take on the quality of a personal testimonial.

You can reach out and pull your reader into your world by using the first person perspective with care. By using a delicate combination of first person and third person, by telling anecdotes, and through personal experiences told in a professional manner, you can touch your reader with your knowledge of the subject matter. You can help them to see things from your point of view, while allowing them to draw their own conclusions.

Authors must be very careful with the first person though. If it is over-used, the article can take on a sort of "PTA story" quality that most editors do not like. Watch this very closely. When I do my final edits, I always check my point of view and try to imagine what my reader with think.

Try this exercise:

1. Write one article in the 1st person. In this style, you use many sentences with "My" and "I".

2. Re-write it now using the 3rd person only. This is when you use "he" or "they" primarily.

3. At this point, you will probably feel that you do not like either of them very much.

4. Now write the article again with the two intro paragraphs citing a few first person passages. Make sure that these are useful in making your point. Be sure to write the next few paragraphs mostly the third person except for references to personal tips or occurrences that can give insight to your reader, helping them to understand the topic more in depth.

5. Use the first person very sparsely throughout, but be sure to use it again near the end of the article for a personal effect.

As writers, we must step back and look at what we have written from outside. Try to look at your writing objectively. This may make the realization a little more concrete to you.

I hope that this article helped you to understand the art of writing all the more. Perhaps you learned something new today, or at least became more familiar with a tip or technique about which you had been wondering. Now you have the tools that you need in order to sell that article that has been collecting dust! Now go write something!

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