How to Write in Third Person
Writers will use one of three points of view: first person, second person or third person. With first person, the writer refers to himself or herself; second person refers directly to the reader and third person refers to general groups or concepts. The appropriate point of view depends on the type of writing, but third person is often most appropriate in academic writing and in creative pieces in which the writer wants to tell the story without intruding into the plot or wants readers to know what all of the story's characters are thinking.
Definitions of Point of View
Writers use first person point of view for personal experiences, using pronouns such as "I," "me," "us" and "we." Instructors allow students to use first person when writing personal narratives. In papers that follow the American Psychological Association style, if you are explaining a research process, you can use second person, if necessary. Second person point of view uses "you," "your" and "yours." Sometimes, writers may use second person when writing process-analysis essays that explain how to do something or how something occurs, but generally, second person is considered inappropriate in academic writing.
Third Person in Academic Writing
Most academic writing should contain third person point of view instead since it emphasizes points and creates a more authoritative tone. Rather than personalizing or drawing in the reader, third person sentences use concepts or specific people as the subjects in sentences, such as, "The results indicated that children flourished under such conditions" and "Grood suggests the principle applies at all levels of elementary school." For research papers, focus on the process and results, rather than your activities to maintain third person. For instance, rather than "I found," write "The results illustrated."
Third Person in Creative Writing
An omniscient or subjective third person narrator allows readers to understand actions, thoughts and motivations for one, some or all characters, using sentences like, "Sally thought the rainbow was a metaphor." Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the third-person subjective point of view in his story "Young Goodman Brown." Objective third-person use eliminates narrator bias in a story, presenting only the facts without interpretation. This narrator possesses a limited view rather than an omniscient view, expressing what can be seen or heard: "Sally said she thought the rainbow was a metaphor." Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" uses such style.
Revising to Use Third Person
Using a word processor's "find" or "search" command will help you search out uses of first or second person. Revise such sentences to replace words like "I" and "you" with nouns like "people" and "it." For example, "I should register early" uses first person and "You should register early" uses second person. To revise in third person, you could write, "Students should register early." Third person pronouns include "they," "he," "she" and "it," so replacing "me," "we," "us," "I" and "you" with such language creates third person point of view.
Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.