Point of view in writing refers to who is telling the story and refers to that particular perspective. We identify point of view by the pronouns used.
First, let’s look at the three points of view and corresponding pronouns.
- first-person singular – I, me, my
- first-person plural – we, us, our
- second-person singular and plural – you, your
- third-person singular – he, she, it, one
- third-person plural – they, them, their
Next, let’s look at how different points of view can be used.
I’ve included a short devotion below, “Know Whose You Are,” to give you an example of how these points of view can be used in one piece.
If you’re telling a story about yourself, use first-person point of view, using I as the subject. Look for the italicized words in the devotion below. Using personal illustrations is a great way to support your teaching.
If you want to draw in your reader and talk directly to her, use second-person point of view, using you as the subject. Look for bold words below. I like to use second-person point of view for asking the reader a direct question. See below for additional comments about second-person point of view.
If you want to address your reader and include yourself, use first-person plural point of view, using WE as the subject. Look for the CAPITALIZED WORDS below. Any time you can use this point of view, I encourage you to. This is a way to talk to your reader but at the same time include yourself. It’s as if you’re saying, we’re learning and walking this path together. This way your reader does not feel talked at; she feels included in a journey.
Know Whose You Are
By Melanie Chitwood, Proverbs 31 Real Life Devotional Bible for Women
One day someone asked my five-year-old son his name. Zachary responded, “Zachary Patrick Chitwood, son of Scott Joseph Chitwood.” I’m not sure what that little boy was thinking or why he responded that way. Although I had never heard him answer this way before, I sure liked it! Zachary knew who he was and to whom he belonged!
How would you answer if someone asked who you are? My first response would be, “I am Melanie Chitwood: a wife, mother, daughter, writer, coach, editor, teacher, friend, and a child of God.”
Yes, like Zachary, I know to whom I belong. I know I’m a child of God. When I was 16-years-old and at a Young Life camp in North Carolina, I sat on a rock, gazed up at the stars in the night sky, and prayed a prayer that changed my life: “Lord, I know that you love me, forgive me, and want to be in a relationship with me. I want You to be my Savior and Lord.” From that day forward, I’ve been assured of my relationship with God. I hope you, too, can identify that moment.
The truth is, though, sometimes WE let our past, OUR feelings, and the approval or disapproval of others define US rather than let God and His Word define US. However, the closer WE grow to the Lord, the more WE understand that those other definitions aren’t the truth. The truth of who WE are found is found in God’s Word.
God’s love for US is everlasting and unfailing. He wants US to have a relationship with Him that causes US to grow closer to Him and gives US the assurance that WE always belong to Him. WE are always defined by His truth.
One more thing about point of view. I encourage writers to limit using second-person point of view. In the nonfiction Christian writing that most of us do, using second-person can sound like we as writers are pointing our fingers at our reader, sounding preachy, judgmental, or even superior.
Let me show you the difference between second-person and first-person plural by using a couple of sentences from Amy Carroll’s Breaking Up with Perfect.
Second-person point of view, with pronouns in bold
“For those of you who try to live by the Good Girl List, your way of thinking leads to a never-ending, soul-crushing cycle of work. Ultimately, your belief that you have to work hard for God’s love leads to exhaustion, despair, and eventually numbness.”
Now read this example when it’s changed to the first-person plural point of view, with pronouns capitalized.
“For those of US who try to live by the Good Girl List, OUR way of thinking leads to a never-ending, soul-crushing cycle of work. Ultimately, OUR belief that WE have to work hard for God’s love leads to exhaustion, despair, and eventually numbness.”
Can you hear the difference in tone?
As we see in these examples, we can use a number of points of view when writing. We need to consider our purpose and the tone we want to set in our writing, letting that guide our choice of point of view.
Any questions or comments? Let me know!