An Instruction to How to Write in Third Person
How to Write in Third Person Without Mistakes?
Writing in the third person is writing using the third person point of view. This involves using pronoun such as him, her, it or them. This is quite different from the first-person point of view which predominantly uses pronouns such as I and me and the second person point of view in which the main pronouns used are you and yours.
The beauty of writing in the third person is that it gives your work an element of objectivity and flexibility. When it comes to fiction works, writing in the third person portrays the narrator as a person who knows it all. Some of the pronouns that are usually adopted in writing in the third person include:
He, she, it, they, him, her, them, his, her, hers, its, their, and theirs
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When to write in third-person?
There are some instances when you are required to write in the third person. These include:
- Academic Writing
- Creative Writing
- Third person omniscient
- Third person objective
- Third person limited
Let’s look at all these instances in depth:
- Academic Writing
The following are the guidelines you need to follow when writing in the third person academically.
- All your academic writing should be in the third person
If you are working on anything formal such as argumentative papers or a research essays, then you must use third person pronoun. This is because it gives your work a picture of objectivity rather than personal thoughts. This aspect of objectivity will make your work look more credible and less biased.
The third person will allow you to focus your work on available facts rather than your thoughts.
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- Ensure that you adopt the right pronouns
The basics definition of the third person is someone on the outside looking in. Therefore, in writing, you either address them by name or use the appropriate third person pronoun. As stated above, some of the third person pronouns are:
He, she, his, her, him, her, it, himself, herself, itself, they, them, their, themselves
- Don’t use first person pronouns
In academic writing, you should never include the first-person pronoun. This is because it will make you work stand from your perspective. In essence, your work will look more personal or of your opinion.
Some of the first-person pronouns are:
I, me, my, mine, myself, we, us, our, ours
The problem with the first-person pronoun is their subjective nature which makes it hard to convince your readers that your work is based on facts as it will look like your personal opinions.
- Do away with second person pronouns
This is a point of view that addresses the readers directly. The problem with this point of view is that it makes you look as if you are very familiar with the readers.
These pronouns include:
You, your, yours, yourself
The issue with this point of view is that it makes your work looks like it is accusing the reader.
If you don’t understand these facts, you are not a scholar
This should be written as:
Someone who doesn’t understand these facts is not a scholar.
- Use general terms to refer to your subject
Sometimes, there is always a need that arises in your writing to talk about someone. In this case, you might be tempted to fall back and use the second person pronoun which is very wrong for academic writing. This is the point where you need to adopt the use of an indefinite third person pronoun.
Some of the common indefinite third person pronouns used in academic writing include:
Individuals, people, students, a child, a man, a woman, experts, the reader…
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Other indefinite third person pronouns are:
One, anyone, someone any, either, each,
- Take care of singular and plural pronouns
One challenge that writers face in academic writing is to maintain the trend of the pronouns they choose to use. If you decide that your subject is based on a singular pronoun then you need to ensure that you flow with it to the conclusion of your paper, don’t mix them up.
This usually arises when the writer tries to avoid being gender specific either when using “him and her.” Usually, one is tempted to simply use “They.”
- Creative Writing
In creative writing, there are different forms of the third person pronoun. As mentioned earlier we have:
- Third person omniscient
- Third person objective
- Third person limited
Let’s look at each of them individually.
Third Person Omniscient
The following are some of the things you need to adhere to when writing in the third person omniscient.
- Ensure that you don’t stick to only a single character
Usually, in creative writing many characters are involved, therefore following the third person omniscient you need to shift your focus to different characters rather than maintaining the actions, words, perspective or thoughts of only one character. The narrator knows it all and can decide to give or hold any actions, feelings or thoughts of a particular character.
For example, your story may involve four main characters, you, therefore, need to portray the actions, thoughts, and feelings of all this at one point. This can be done in a single paragraph in your story.
- Take charge of your narration
When writing using the third person omniscient point of view, you are free to give any information that you desire. This point of view allows you not only to give the feelings and inner thoughts of the characters but also it allows you to unmask some of the events that will happen later on in the story.
You are allowed to include a moral perspective, hold any opinion or talk about nature when you are not talking about your characters.
This is to say that, when writing in the third person omniscient, you take full control of the narration and decide what to include or not. Different from any other point of view, third person omniscient allows you to talk about the inner thoughts of your characters.
You should be in a position to know when not to give some information. Even though you can give any information, it is sometimes good to leave others so that you talk about them in a gradual manner.
- Do away with first and second person pronoun
In your narration, don’t use the first or second person pronoun. You are only allowed to adopt these points of view when dealing with active dialogue.
Third Person Limited
How to perfect your third person writing?
When writing in third person limited, these are some of the things that you need to follow.
- Focus on a single character
Unlike the third person omniscient, writing in third person limited perspective allows you to only talk about the actions, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs of only one character. In this perspective, you can decide to be more objective or write in a manner that portrays the thinking and reaction of the character.
This perspective does not give you the chance to talk about any other character, and therefore the actions and thoughts are unknown to you. This perspective does not allow the shifting from one character to another.
Third person limited is different from the first person in that there is a thin line separating the protagonist and the narrator. This gives you the chance to give information about the character that you wouldn’t otherwise tell if you were the narrating in first person.
- Talk about the other characters from the sideline
In as much as your focus should be on a single character, you still need to talk about the other characters. But in this case, you are going to treat them as a different entity.
You need to keep in mind this should not make you use the first or second person pronoun. All your work should be in the third person unless when highlighting an active dialogue.
Ideally, this means that you as the writer have complete knowledge about the main character, but you should avoid making your character the narrator.
Do not write:
I felt bad arguing with my mother
Mary felt bad arguing with her mother.
- Deal with the words and actions of other characters
In this point of view, you are only allowed to talk about the thoughts and feelings of your main character. While talking about the other characters, you should only focus on their words and actions, and this should not go to their thoughts and feelings. In other words, the mention of other characters should occur without the knowledge of the protagonist. What this means is that, whatever the narrator can do, the protagonist can also perform only that the narrator cannot get into the minds of other characters.
You can only give guesses of insights about the other characters, but these should be based on the main character’s perspective.
Do not write
Mary felt bad. She didn’t know that her mother was terrified
Mary felt bad, but looking at the expression on her mother’s face, she noticed that she was also terrified.
- Keep information that is not familiar to your main character
In as much as your narrator is allowed to talk about the words and actions of the other characters, the narrator is limited to talk about things that the main character can understand.
This is to say that, you can only highlight the actions of the other characters when your main character is present or in the midst of these actions.
Third Person Objective
How to use third person point of view
These are some of the guidelines you need to follow when using the third person objective point of view.
- Switch to different characters
If you are want to write using the third person objective, note that you are allowed to mention the words and actions of the character of your choice at any point in your story. You don’t have to focus on a single character. You can talk about different characters and switch them whenever you want to.
In all this, you have to maintain the third person pronoun and avoid the first or second pronoun at all cost. However, you can use them only when highlighting a dialogue.
- Avoid being direct
When dealing with the third person objective point of view, you are not in a position to tell exactly what is happening in the heads of your characters.
In this case, you have to look at yourself as an outsider watching the actions of your characters and they engage each other in the story. You are not omniscient hence you are not able to get to know the feelings and inner thoughts of all your characters. However, you are only able to access the actions of each character.
- Use descriptions
You should note that you are not in a position to talk about the inner thoughts of your characters. However, you are in a position to observe them and tell what they are feeling or going through. This can, therefore, give you insights into their thoughts. What you need to do now is describing what you have observed from the character. Instead of being direct and telling your readers that the character is angry, describe the character’s body language, the facial expression, the tone, so that the reader will picture that he/she is angry.
- Forget about your thoughts
When using the third person objective point of view, you assume the role of a reporter rather than a commentator. In this case, you should allow your readers to derive their inferences. You should do this by presenting the actions of your characters without attaching any analysis or explanation. In other words, you should not provide insights on how the readers should view these actions. From this article you are set to handle third person narration without any more difficulty.