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.