Differences Between First and Third Person
Personal Writing, such as for a reflective essay, or a "personal response" discussion posting, can be written in the first person (using "I" and "me"), and may use personal opinions and anecdotes as evidence for the point you are trying to make. All other Ashford papers (Exposition, Persuasion, and Research Papers) should generally be written in third person, and should use only credible academic sources to support your argument.
EXAMPLES OF FIRST AND THIRD PERSON WRITING
First person example (only acceptable for personal writing)I think Shakespeare's play Hamlet is about the relationships between family members. I really liked the play, and in some ways the characters reminded me of my own family.
Third person correction (appropriate for all other academic writing)Shakespeare's play Hamlet deals with the relationships between family members. In Examining Hamlet, Arnold Latimer describes these relationships as "conflicted" (2005, pg. 327).
Explanation:In the second example, the pronouns "I" and "me" have been omitted, and academic sources are used as evidence.
First person example (only acceptable for personal writing)The theory of learning that I relate to the most is Bandura's social cognitive theory. This is the theory that you can learn to do things by observing others. I know this theory is true because I learned how to fix cars by watching my dad over many years.
Third person correction (appropriate for all other academic writing)Albert Bandura's social cognitive theory is based on the idea that people can acquire knowledge by observing others through social interaction. This theory was demonstrated through Bandura's "Bobo Doll" experiment (1961).
Explanation: In the second examples, the focus is on objective facts, rather than on what "I" think, and academic sources are used as evidence.
Writing in third person is writing from the third-person point of view, or outsider looking in, and uses pronouns like he, she, it, or they. It differs from the first person, which uses pronouns such as I and me, and from the second person, which uses pronouns such as you and yours.
Writing in the third-person provides flexibility and objectivity. In fiction writing it enables the narrator to be all-knowing. The personal pronouns used in third-person writing are he, she, it, they, him, her, them, his, her, hers, its, their, and theirs.
Third Person Writing in Literature
- "He is just what a young man ought to be," said she, "sensible, good humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners!—so much ease, with such perfect good breeding!" - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
- “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” - George Orwell, 1984
- “Their commander was a middle-aged corporal—red-eyed, scrawny, tough as dried beef, sick of war. He had been wounded four times—and patched up, and sent back to war.” - Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
- “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets.” - Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford
"He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people. They were all waiting reasonably for the train. He went out through the bead curtain. She was sitting at the table and smiled at him." - Ernest Hemingway, "Hills Like White Elephants"
- “She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes”
- Lord Byron, "She Walks in Beauty"
Third Person Writing in Advertising
- Plop Plop Fizz Fizz. Oh, what a relief it is - Alka-Seltzer
- The King of Beers - Budweiser
- It's the real thing - Coca-Cola
- A diamond is forever - De Beers
- The happiest place on earth - Disneyland
- It keeps going and going and going - Energizer
- When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight - FedEx
- The Possibilities are Infinite - Fujitsu
- The best a man can get - Gillette
- It wouldn't be home without Hellmann's - Hellman's
- It's finger lickin' good - KFC
- Nobody can do it like McDonald's can - McDonald's
- Good to the last drop - Maxwell House
- Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's Maybelline - Maybelline
- The greatest tragedy is indifference - Red Cross
- Takes a licking and keeps on ticking - Timex
Third Person Writing in Famous Quotes
- “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” - Oscar Wilde
- “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” - Winston Churchill
- “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” - Albert Einstein
- “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” - Helen Keller
- “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” - Victor Hugo
- “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” - Henry Ford
- “Family is not an important thing. It's everything.” - Michael J. Fox
- “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
- “A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” - Lou Holtz
An Objective Point of View
These examples illustrate the different ways to write in the third person and which pronouns to use. The first person point of view might read "I never make mistakes so I never learn." The second person would read "You never make mistakes so you never learn." See how this differs from the third person, which would read "He never makes mistakes so he never learns" and is much more objective.