Every single time you write, you’re making a critical choice that you likely don’t even realize: Will you share your message in first-, second-, or third person?
Choosing which point of view you use in writing is a powerful (and deceptively simple) way to tweak your message. When you change grammatical person, you quite literally change how your audience interprets and understands your point of view.
But how do you know if first, second, or third person is the best choice for your message? Follow Zuula’s 1-2-3 Content Fix: Choose Your Point of View to conquer this conundrum!
1. First Person: Share Your Thoughts and Opinions
When you write using first person, you use personal pronouns that tell your reader exactly what you’re thinking. By bringing yourself directly into the conversation, you can seem more honest and humble. But, be careful not to say “I” too much, or your readers may judge you to be insecure. And overall, avoid first person in technical or scientific writing — unless you need to bring you or your company as the main subject into the details.
- Singular: I, me, my, mine
- Plural: we, us, ours, ours
I think your social media presence has an endearing tone.
We’re pleased that our designer completed the new website design on time and under budget.
2. Second Person: Speak Directly to Your Reader
Second person engages readers personally by using pronouns such as “you.” This point of view can help bring your audience into the experience, because you’ve spoken to them directly. Consequently, second person can be especially effective in outcome-driven communications, such as email and social media. Be aware: If you’re sharing negative news, perspectives or needs, second person can easily read as an accusation, rather than a suggestion.
Singular and plural: you, your, yours
Your social media presence has an endearing tone.
You did a great job completing the new website design on time and under budget.
3. Third Person: Narrate Situations or Share Technical Details
Third person creates the greatest distance from your audience and subject. With this point of view, you’re talking about someone or something — rather than to them (second person) or on your own behalf (first person). This distance is good when you’re writing academic, technical, or scientific content. Third person also works well when you’re discussing people or events where objectivity is improtant (e.g., dynamics between two coworkers). But, choose first person if you want to share your personal opinions and second person if you want to directly engage your audience.
Third person pronouns:
Singular: he, she, him, her, his, her, it, its, they*
Plural: they, their, theirs
Her social media presence has an endearing tone.
The designer completed the new website design on time and under budget.
Deciding which point of view will best share your message is one of the most critically important decisions you can make. By following our 1-2-3 Content Fix, you’ll be on a path toward stronger, clearer writing— and one step closer to ensuring your audiences hang on every word and engage in the experience.
*Because the English language is missing a gender-neutral, third-person pronoun, Zuula follows the modern standard of using “singular they” to close this gap.