1st Person: I, We
When you write in first person, you’re talking about yourself:
I went to class.
My mom made me lunch today.
We went to the movies.
When a novel is written in first person, the narrator is most often a character in the story, telling the reader about events that he or she has experienced.
2nd Person: You
When you write in second person, you’re talking to the reader:
You would really enjoy this book.
Your mom made you lunch today.
You went to the movies.
Very few books are written in second person. The Choose Your Own Adventure series is one example; the book is written as if the reader is the main character. It contains scenarios such as, “As you are running away from the grizzly bear, you suddenly reach a cliff. If you choose to jump off the cliff, turn to page 142. If you choose to turn and face the grizzly bear, turn to page 145.”
3rd Person: He, She
When you write in third person, you are writing about other people or characters without mentioning yourself:
He made a difficult decision.
The main character matured over the course of the novel.
Her mom made her lunch today.
Ralph and Jack created rival tribes.
Or, the plural of this last example: They created rival tribes.
When a novel is written in third person, the narrator is not a character in the novel, but a voice from outside the story conveying events. A third person narrator can be third person omniscient if he/she conveys the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters, or third person limited if he/she conveys the thoughts and feelings of only the main character.
Avoiding 1st and 2nd Person in Formal Writing
All formal essays should be written entirely in 3rd person. This means that you should avoid phrases like the following:
I think… (Back up your thesis with evidence, not your opinions.)
I have proven that… (This phrase is unnecessary; just state the point. If you’ve really proven it, the reader will know without being told.)
You can see that… (This phrase is also unnecessary; just state the point.)
An important theme in this book is that you always get what you deserve. (Statements like this can be easily rephrased into a 3rd person construction: people always get what they deserve.)