When it comes to written communication, one of the most impactful decisions you can make is one people do not often think about - the perspective from which you write.
If you think back to your middle school English class, you might remember there are three types of point of view to choose from - first person, second person, and third person.
In case you need a refresher, here’s a little breakdown:
This is when a writer writes from their own perspective - like I’m doing now. First person uses “I”, “my”, “we,” etc. It’s personal, which can be extremely powerful. It’s also easy to get off on personal tangents when writing from the first person or alienate a reader who might be different from you.
To write in this perspective, the writer directly addresses the reader - like I did at the start of the piece. That means using the term “you” to involve your audience directly. It has the power to engage and captivate the reader, but it can be tricky to maintain consistently.
This perspective takes a more objective approach by writing from the point of view of an outsider - not the writer, not the reader. It uses terms like “he”, “she”, “they” and “it.” Third person allows you to easily deliver information in an authoritative manner, but it can also feel distant and detached for the reader.
Each perspective packs its own unique punches, and also comes with its own unique limitations. That is why deciding which point of view to craft your writing from is an important choice.
It’s become a common misconception that choosing point of view applies only to fiction writing, but I challenge you to rethink your marketing and communication pieces as creative writing. It’s not the same as fiction, but it’s still rooted in a story - your brand’s story. It still requires a clear perspective for a specific reason.
Take this piece for instance.
I thought about third person, but that seemed too dry. Then, I seriously considered writing in second person the entire time. This would have hopefully engaged the reader. However, for longer content pieces, it gets tricky to maintain the entire time without getting too confusing.
That left me with first person - plus some second person sprinkled throughout for a little flair. It allows me to be personable, to close the distance between the writer (me) and the reader (you), and also directly insert the reader into the piece.
The decision was deliberate, strategic, and once I knew what I wanted to do, I made sure to stick to it.
So next time you sit down to write something for your business or brand, remember the following:
the impact you want to have on your audience.
Is this a personal thought leadership piece to ignite emotion? If so, try first person. Or is it a white paper positioning your company as an expert in the field? If that’s the case, third person is more appropriate. Your perspective should heavily be influenced by the influence you want to have.
the type of communication you’re crafting.
There are obvious points of view to choose for some mediums. Personal email? First person. Company memo? Third person. But in other cases, there is freedom to play around. For example, when it comes to professional bios, I like to have a first person and a third person copy on hand. For short quippy ad lines, I recommend giving a second person a try.
lean into whatever perspective you choose.
If you’re going to use first person, use it. Writing an entire blog in third person then throwing in one line about your personal experience is confusing at best and off-putting at worst. It’s dangling a carrot, but not in a good way. I’m not saying stick to only one point of view (obviously I’ve dabbled in others throughout), but I am saying commit to whatever you decide to use.
There’s power in your perspective. There’s even more when you use your perspective strategically.