Northcentral University Writing Center
Writing in Third Person


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Writing Center

Writing in Third Person

 

For academic writing at NCU, the writer is expected to write in the third person. In third person, the writer avoids the pronouns I, we, my, and our. The third person is used to make the writing more objective by taking the individual, the “self,” out of the writing. This method is very helpful for academic writing, a form in which facts, not opinion, drive the tone of the text. Writing in the third person allows the writer to come across as unbiased and thus more informed.

 

Here is a sample written in the first person.

 

I believe that it is very important for the person writing the argument to have an actual opinion about the subject matter. In my opinion, I would not trust someone who does not have an opinion about such a controversial matter.

 

Now compare the first passage above to this one:

 

Writers with opinions about their subject matter tend to present the issues more poignantly because they appear well informed and more involved in the subject matter.

 

One may suggest that writers with opinions about their subject matter tend to present the issues more poignantly because they appear well informed and more involved in the subject matter.

 

When writing in the third person, the writer must always remember to correlate all pronouns with the third person to ensure appropriate pronoun-antecedent agreement. For example, when using the word “writer,” it is only acceptable to refer back to the writer with her or she. This same rule applies to all other indefinite third person pronouns: another, any, each, either, everybody, neither, nobody, other, anybody, everyone, somebody, anyone, everything, no one, and someone. Here are some examples:

 

Another writer must have his or her turn to speak now.

 

Either of the writers is allowed to submit his or her article.

 

Neither of the writers is allowed to submit his or her article.

 

When revising the draft for Style, writers need to ensure that there is no use of first person pronouns.

 

When revising for the third person, writers should go sentence by sentence to locate first person pronouns and to then replace those pronouns with a third person construction. Here’s an example:

 

                         I must have my opportunity to present my point of view now.

 

          Revised:  The writer must have his or her opportunity to present his or

                        her point of view.

                       

 

For more information about this topic, please visit the Writing Centers at Colorado, Purdue, and Chapel Hill.