When high school essay writers go to college, they bring with them an arsenal of rigid writing rules that are intended to help them write better essays in college. Rules such as “Don’t use ‘I’” and “Never use the first-person point-of-view” are ingrained in their psyches so much. These are actually sound pieces of advice, but essay writing starts to become confusing when you begin to encounter things like memoirs and personal essays.
Is it still wrong to include the “I” and shun the third-person altogether in these types of essays? The answer is no. Amateur writers should understand that essay writing is not an inflexible process. Although it does adhere to certain rules, you, the writer, hold the discretion of bending or breaking these rules if doing so makes your point clearer or stronger. The following are excellent reasons to overthrow the conventions and make your own writing rules.
- Connection – In certain instances, you need to establish a relationship with your audience and bring about a feeling of intimacy. Using the “I” and other first-person references such as “me,” “myself,” “we,” “us” and “ourselves” lends your essay a more personal tone. This is supplemented by using the second-person “you” in your essay too.
- Subjectivity – When asked to share your own thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, perspectives and stock knowledge gathered through the years about a certain topic, there is no other way to do so but to use the first-person point-of-view. It is also particularly helpful when you would like to share a personal anecdote as an introduction to your essay or to drive home a point.
- Simplicity – Sometimes, the third-person point-of-view can only muddle your arguments, such as when you would like to relate a firsthand account of a significant event.
- Authority – Even in writing scientific essays, where traditional writers completely avoid the use of the first-person, the more modern and flexible science writers now realize the value of using “I.” The first-person is especially helpful when the writer would like to claim authority for a certain discovery by describing the detailed process that brought about this breakthrough.
Then again, you should remember that the first-person point-of-view is not always helpful and that there are instances when sticking with the third-person is better for your essay. For one thing, using the “I” can be very restrictive, preventing you from incorporating multiple perspectives that can make your essay more inclusive and comprehensive. For another, it can be awkward trying to include the “I” or your personal experiences too much in your essay, especially when they are only vaguely related to the main idea of your essay.
In instances like this, the third-person point-of-view lends a more factual and detached air to your essay. It can sound dull, but if your essay’s objective is to inform and educate your readers, it is easy to offset the lackluster tone of a third-person essay with generous chunks of helpful information that your readers are interested in. When you’re writing a research paper, report, biographical essay or a traditional journalistic article, using the third-person point-of-view is your best bet.