Writing First Person Essay


First-person essays are aimed at sharing an experience, letting your reader see and feel it. They show how that experience changed your mind, affected you, educated you. Your essay is your personal journey of discovery. And your main task while writing your essay is to engage a reader to take that journey with you.

To make your thoughts and emotions run in the right direction, you need to follow the basic rules. Here is how to write from your perspective and show your reader the true sense of the story.

Choosing an Experience to Share

The topics are endless. Almost anything can be the subject material for your essay – relationships, nature, climbing, death, traveling – just ask yourself what you have experienced that has emotional appeal. Your topic can be funny, compelling or touching. If you cannot decide what to write about, ask yourself what makes you happy or what makes you sad. All topics are at your fingertips, you simply need to choose a great illustrative one that will make your reader care.

When you have a clear idea of what you want to share, go to the next important step – writing the first draft.

Preparing the First Draft

The first draft of your essay is your first step in creating a thoughtful and focused writing piece. Let your emotions and ideas flow! Don't critique your first draft, after all, you'll have time to improve it later. All you need to do right now is to describe the things that are crucial for your story – people, places, events. You need to find the balance in giving the reader enough information so they can understand your actions or decisions.

While writing your first draft, it is OK to pause, recollect your thoughts and remind yourself of your goal. When you think you've said all you can say, close your notebook and walk away. In several hours, in a day, or so, read your essay. You'll find information that shines with brilliance and you'll see plenty of unnecessary details. It's good to recognize this before you submit your work.

Style and Voice

The goal of your first-person essay is to connect with a reader, so they can visualize your point of view. You need to write in a personal, engaging, understandable and revealing way.

  • Personal – You are the main protagonist, so make your essay intimate and revealing to show the reader your personal world. The best essays are written like a conversation with a smart friend, in a real and genuine way.
  • Engaging – To make your essay interesting, include intriguing details, humorous experience and descriptive language. Your essay shouldn't sound like a science report, so make sure your writing style is appealing and entertaining.
  • Understandable – Write in a straightforward and understandable way. Avoid using unclear references or dubious phrases. Use simple, clear and concise language that will easily connect you with a reader.
  • Revealing – It is very important to make your first-person essay revealing. Personal references establish the setting, mood, theme and historical relevance. If you fail to do that, you'll find it really difficult to disclose all necessary information in your essay.

Perfecting Your Essay

The last step in crafting an effective essay is to thoroughly revise your writing piece. You've written what you think is close to a perfect work, but don't rush to submit it at once. Take time to reread your essay and ensure that it doesn't contain the common pitfalls.

A good essay is one that appeals to the five senses. Make sure you offer enough details, so your reader can see, hear and smell what you're writing about. Don't just tell the audience what's going on, use the verbs to show that. However, avoid being too emotional. It's fine to show happiness, anger or sadness, but you need to find a balance.

In addition, check your essay for grammar, punctuation, repetitions. You don't want to spoil your personal journey by silly typos or mistakes. Ask yourself if your writing is clear and to-the-point and whether you share your thoughts in the most understandable way.

Write in detail, be honest, talk about emotions and your first-person essay will surely engage your reader!

In the past, you might have had problems getting that polished, professional feel to your essays, but you couldn’t quite figure out why. Are your ideas too underdeveloped? Is your thesis statement not good enough? Do you not have enough support for your arguments?

Sometimes the problem with your essay is simply the point of view you choose to write in. Using third-person writing can make a world of difference in giving your essay the right tone.

Three Different Points of View

If you’re not sure what the different points of view are, I’ll give you a run-down and some examples to help you see more clearly. And for an added bonus, I’ll give you a couple clips from the king of narration himself, Morgan Freeman.

First-Person Writing

When you write in first person, you use I and me. Think of yourself as the “first person”–any pronoun that indicates something you do or think is going to be first person. You see this a lot when you’re reading books from the main character’s perspective.

Typically, however, first-person writing is not very effective in writing essays. (We’ll get to why that is in a second.)

Example: I believe that third-person writing is the best point of view when writing an essay.

First-person writing or narration also uses us and we, as you’ll see in this example:

Second-Person Writing

Second-person point of view uses the pronoun you. Second-person writing is the equivalent to a choose-your-own-adventure novel or a self-help book. It speaks directly to the audience.

However, the conversational tone of writing in second-person is not usually ideal for academic writing.

Example: You would do better on your essays if you wrote in third person.

It is important to note that when you aren’t writing strictly in third person, the point of view can shift from sentence to sentence.

In the next example, you’ll notice that both first-person and second-person points of view are present. The lyrics Freeman reads shift between using “you/your” and first-person singular pronouns throughout the clip.

Third-Person Writing

Third-person writing uses the pronouns they, him, her, and it, as well as proper nouns. This is the type of writing you would see in a novel with an outside narrator.

Example: Teachers and students agree that third-person writing makes essays sound better.

Here’s one last video example, this one using third-person perspective, from the man with the golden voice:

Why Third-Person Writing is Important

Third-Person Writing Makes Your Essay Sound More Assertive.

If you write your essay in first person, you risk the chance of statements like “I think” or “I believe.” These kinds of statements sound more passive than just stating your facts. Notice the difference between the following sentences:

This is why I believe jazz is the first form of truly American music.

This is why jazz is the first form of truly American music.

The second sentence–the one that uses third-person–sets a more definite tone. You are presenting the sentence as a statement of fact instead of a personal belief.

Third-Person Writing Makes Your Support Sound More Credible.

On a related note, first-person writing makes your support sound like it’s coming from a non-credible source. Presenting facts or opinions with “I think” or “I believe” in front doesn’t give any validity to the statement.

Third-person writing encourages you to use other sources to validate your claims. The following two sentences will illustrate this further:

I believe that children should consume less sugar because it leads to higher risk of obesity.

According to the Obesity Action Coalition, children who consume a lot of sugar have an increased risk of obesity.

The second sentence pulls an authoritative source to support the claim instead of you, the writer. This makes the claim more credible to the reader.

Third-Person Writing Sounds Less Conversational and More Professional.

As I mentioned before, writing in the first or second person leads to a more conversational tone. While this may be good for some forms of writing (this blog post, for example), you want your academic writing to take on a more formal tone. Consider the following examples:

When writing a novel, you should think about what kind of tone you want to portray before choosing which point of view you want to use.

When writing a novel, authors should think about the kind of tone they want to portray before choosing which point of view they want to use.

The first sentence creates a more intimate and conversational tone with the reader, but the second sentence tells the reader what kind of person (authors) would benefit from reading the sentence.

It is more specific and, therefore, creates a more formal tone.

Exceptions to the Third-Person Writing Rule

I won’t ever tell you that it’s always a good idea to write one specific way. Third-person writing is usually a good idea in academic writing, but there are cases where first-person writing is a better call.

When You’re Writing A Personal Narrative.

Personal narrative essays are designed to tell the reader something that has happened in your life, so first-person writing would be the preferred choice here. Whether it be something that embarrassed you, angered you, or made you proud or happy, narrative essays are all about real-world life experiences.

When You’re Talking About Your Own Opinions.

Like narrative essays, using your own opinions in essays may sometimes require the use of the first person, especially if you are drawing on personal experiences. Usually, this will happen in persuasive essays.

It is important to note that you should still try to use third-person writing for your persuasive essays because, as I mentioned earlier, it will give a more formal tone and more credibility to your argument. However, if some personal experience is especially relevant, it would be okay to use the first person (unless your teacher says otherwise, of course).

When You’re Doing Other Informal Types of Writing.

Essays are not the only types of writing assignments you’re likely to receive. Short stories and poetry pop up in classes from time to time, and these can be written any number of ways. Short stories can take the first- or third-person perspective–they rarely use second person. Poetry can use any of the three points of view.

(For more, read When to Use First-Person Writing in Your Essays)

When you are concentrating strictly on academic essays, third-person writing is (usually) crucial. And it’s not hard to do. Just look at any references to yourself or the reader and change around the sentence to eliminate the I, me, you, we, and us pronouns. Doing so will make your writing stronger, clearer, and more professional.

If you still can’t quite get the hang of third-person writing, there’s no need to stress out over it. Just send your essay to one of the Kibin editors to help you out.

Now… go try your hand at third-person writing!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

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