What is “point of view”?

From LitWiki

Point of view is the position from which you construct your essay — a persona or voice, if you will. Your persona might just be a college student writing to other college students, but you may wish to communicate through a certain voice in order to achieve the desired effect in your audience. For example, you might be discussing what a television show meant to you as a child: how it brought your family together every week at 8 pm; how it influenced your daily life as a child; or how you felt when the show was cancelled. In order to impress upon your audience any one of these positions, you might use the voice of a child to communicate your feelings more effectively. Your point of view will effect your essay’s content and how that content is organized. Always have a strategic reason for choosing point of view; know what voice you will use before you begin your essay and stick with it throughout.

The first-person point of view emphasizes the writer:

I was ten-years-old when Star Trek was cancelled.

Recognize the first-person by the words I, me, my, and mine. Use the first-person point of view in narrative and descriptive essays that focus on personal experiences. The first-person is familiar, so it is often discouraged in formal, academic writing.

The second-person — the you point of view — should generally be avoided in college writing unless you have a specific reason for including your audience in your essay, like giving instructions or advice (like the answers in the FAQ). The second-person emphasizes the reader, but it should not be used colloquially:

Racial prejudice has no scientific support, but relies solely on the color of your skin.

In this instance, the second-person voice is confusing in that it implicates a single reader’s skin color as the basis of racial prejudice. When speaking in general terms, the third-person would be more appropriate.

The third-person voice (he, she, it, one, or they) is often privileged in the college classroom as it suggests a rational objectivity in one’s writing in foregrounding the subject. A rewrite of the two examples above in the third-person remove the emphasis form the writer and reader respectively and transfer it to the subject:

Star Trek was cancelled in 1967.
Racial prejudice has no scientific support, but relies solely on the color of one’s skin.

These revisions focus attention on the subjects under consideration, often a more appropriate point of view for the college essay.

When you decide on a point of view for your essay, you should use it consistently throughout the essay. Shifting point of view will cause confusion in your readers.

Composition FAQ