Welcome to another post in the Content Creator Basics series. Here, we’ll share our go-to tips for flexing your freelance writer muscles—whether you’re writing content for someone else or for your own blog. Check in for more tips to sharpen your online content writing skills.
Anytime you sit down to write something, you’re writing in at least one point of view. In English, we have three options: first, second, and third person. You’re probably familiar with them in fiction; for example, Hunger Games is in first person while The Lord of the Rings is in third. Each point of view has a time and a place where it can be effective, but when should you use which option for WritersDomain?
First person is using “I” and all of its variations like “we,” “ours,” or “me.” This is when the speaker is narrating the piece you’re reading or when you’re speaking about yourself.
First Person and the Web
We often see first person on the web. It’s found in comments where people are stating their opinions, used throughout personal blogs, and used in social media posts. These areas are all great places to use all variations of first person. However, first person generally is not allowed on WritersDomain blogs or articles — the only exception is when speaking as the company for onsite blogs. For more information, see section 3 of the Onsite Blog Style Guide.
What Does WritersDomain Think About First Person?
Remember that the official WritersDomain guideline for articles is “Do not use anecdotes, and do not write in the first-person point of view.” WritersDomain articles are ghostwritten. This means that your name won’t go on the article. Instead, this content will be posted on a blog network or the client’s site — and both of these sites should be as professional as possible, which means no first person. These blogs are intended to be a way for the client to engage in the conversation surrounding their industry, whether on their own blog or a third party’s. So we want it to sound like the client is engaging, not a ghostwriter.
Look out for ways that first person likes to hide with ambiguous constructions, like the very general use of “we;” for example, “we live in a world with lots of people.” Also avoid using “let’s,” as it is a contraction of “let” and “us.”
Second person is using words like “you” and “your” to address the audience. This is when the speaker of the piece addresses the audience directly.
Second Person and the Web
This point of view is excellent for the internet because it is the perfect option when speaking to an audience about non-personal subjects like HVAC repair. Second person tends to sound the most natural to readers.
What Does WritersDomain Think About Second Person?
Imagine if you asked a question and the person answering you spoke in first person. For example, let’s say you asked about when to change your HVAC filter, and the person answering you said, “We need to change our HVAC filters at least once a year.” That sounds like they live with you, sharing a filter, and are going to change it with you.
Now, let’s say that they answered in third person and said, “Homeowners need to change their HVAC filters at least once a year.” It sounds fairly normal, but the sentence sounds formal. There is a slight disconnect between the reader and what they’re reading.
The second person construction solves those issues: “You need to change your HVAC filter at least once a year.” It’s clear that nothing strange is happening and no one is implied to be living with the reader by the point of view. The tone of the sentence is also much more casual than in third person, which is more in line with what internet-users expect when they visit blogs or read articles.
To summarize, WritersDomain likes second person because it isn’t too formal and addresses the reader directly. This makes it a good choice as long as the content isn’t too anecdotal. For more information about why avoiding anecdotal content is a good idea, read this blog.
Third person covers a variety of pronouns. Basically, it is every pronoun but “I” words and “you” words. This includes “he,” “she,” “they,” and “it.” This is often used when referring to specific people or groups of people.
Third Person and the Web
Third person is great to use on the web and in basically any writing. You’ll often see it in more academic articles, as it can sound formal, but it is appropriate for all writing. Most often, in WritersDomain work, third person writing refers to people who are not the intended audience in an article. For example, when you’re looking for an HVAC technician, a blog will use third person to talk about the work the technician will do.
As you write in third-person, keep inclusivity in mind. This means that you should avoid using “he” or “she” to refer to all members of a certain group. For example, avoid sentences like “A doctor will do his best to help you” or “A teacher works hard to teach her students.” The third-person neutral pronoun, “they,” is a better choice in these situations; for example, “A teacher works hard to teach their students.” You can read more about the singular “they” in this article.
What Does WritersDomain Think About Third Person?
At WritersDomain, we prefer that third person isn’t used to address the intended audience of the blog. Third person can and should be used to refer to other people or professionals the reader should contact or be aware of.
Now that you’re more familiar with first, second, and third person, you can better understand when each point of view is best for whatever you’re writing. Remember, for WritersDomain, never use first person unless you’re working on an onsite blog, use second to address the audience, and use third for everyone else.