First Person, Third Person, Second Person

I’ve been working on the critiques for the short story contest on the forum all day yesterday and today, and working on a couple of copy edits for a publisher I contract with on editing – two novels working right now. Pretty cool.

I had a friend in the Houston/Galveston area, so I ended up spending a lot of time watching television, something I never really do, so I could keep tabs on Ike. Down here in my part of Texas, the storm really only brought us some rain. Today, it’s clear, muggy, humid and partly-cloudy, though they had told us it was supposed to storm all day.

(shrug) weather predictors really aren’t that accurate, but at least there is warning for hurricanes, i suppose.

I know, none of this has anything to do with writing. Just sorta venting it out that I realize how much time television used to fill up in my life and how much happier I am now that I focus on my writing and reading and editing…. THIS is what I love to do, so that just reaffirmed that for me.

As for writing in a particular ‘person’, this post has mostly been inspired by the contest entries I’m critiquing, but I thought I’d carry it out a bit into freelance writing too, since some websites and publishers require a particular ‘person’ to their writing.

How-to articles are written usually in second person, what’s called you (understood). You (understood) is a person where you don’t really say ‘you’, but it’s understood by the reader that you mean ‘you’, or rather the reader.

For example, if I’m reading a how-to article that says, “Turn off the light switch.”, I don’t need to have it say, “You should turn off the light switch…” to understand that they intended me to do it.

Some how-to articles might have some first person elements to them, if the writer shares personal experience with the reader about the same project, but the actual how-to part is you (understood).

Most articles for news, information, etc, are going to be third person – he/she/it/they/them. When doing these type of articles, be sure NOT to slip into second person. I see this frequently and admit to having done it on my ‘content’ articles and my blog before, but for a professional article to a print publication or higher-end paying market, you need to keep your person consistent.

I’ve seen writers start by saying, “One should always check this before….” and then later, “You want to be sure to check this….” these are two different ‘persons’ in one article, and while it is okay for information, it is a no-no for professional writing.

First person is I/me, mine…. first person writing in non fiction is usually reserved for personal essay and experiential essays, even if they are instructional in nature… again, how-to and some instructional articles might combine you (understood) and first person together.

So when you’re writing, you need to determine what type of article you are going to write: informational (third), personal essay (first), how-to (second/’you’ understood), etc. Believe it or not, Helium.com has some excellent descriptions of different article types if you’ll visit their marketplace.

So some keys to determine what person you’re using:

Third person: some, people, them, they, he, she, it, theirs, their, they’re, one, human, beings, etc.

Second person: you, your, you (understood) and sometimes ‘ours’.

First person: I, me, mine, ours.

The most common writing style for articles, non-fiction and most fiction for that matter, is third person.

What writing style you use is not as important though as consistency. Whatever person you choose to use, use it throughout the writing, without changing person midstream.

On another note, I have started a new venture in blogging for freelancing – it’s all about freelancing. Not what I write here, but more about the technical back-end part of it – how to get set up, how to get the proper paperwork, deciding what services to provide, where to find work and much more. I only have two posts so far, but I’m working on getting it up there and posting at least one new post per day about freelancing. I hope you’ll stick with the blog and read more if you’re interested in Freelancing.

For now, have a fantastic day!

Love and stuff,

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