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  1. #1
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    First or Third Person?

    Hi, all,

    I'm finishing up my new consultant website, and I can't decide - should I write content in first person, or third person?

    My target market would be a small to mid sized business who is able to spend about $1000 per month.

    Please let me know your thoughts.

    Thanks!

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    SitePoint Zealot McStompin's Avatar
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    I was always taught never to include any 'I's, 'my's or 'me's in any kind of professional writing. That rule always made sense, in my opinion. But I also think it depends on how personal you want to get. After all, you're not exactly writing an instruction manual. If a blogger, for example, wanted to show his personality/opinions in his writing, that rule would not apply. Try writing some sample content both ways and see how it looks.
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    Yes, that's the tough part. I'm not sure if I want to seem more professional or more personal.

    Would you take a look at my site and give some suggestions?

    I don't want to spam the forum, but with your permission I'll send over a PM.
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    SitePoint Zealot McStompin's Avatar
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    Sure, no problem! I check it out a little bit later when I have more time and let you know what I think.
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    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    I certainly understand your dilemma. If you are a one-person business it is very difficult to write in third person unless your aim is to make your reader believe that you have a larger team than you really have. Still, you don't want to make your site look like it's all about "I".

    I generally try to go for more personal so that the person reading realizes that there is a person at the other end of his/her computer. However, personal has little to do with either "I" or "he". Personal has to do with "you". Get your reader involved in your writing by using active verbs and showing him that there is a person at the other end of his/her computer.

    If you are showing case studies in your portfolio, then start with "Company XYZ" needed (blah, blah, blah). Then you are fine to say "We were able to find a solution to their problem through...." because you are talking about you and your client working together.

    Another example is to show your clients what they can depend on from your company. There, I think third person works well.

    "You get a professional (writer, developer, designer) with XX years of experience."

    It's also okay to throw in a little first person "Original articles are my specialty."

    As said before, it doesn't really matter third or first person as long as you write so that your reader understands there is a person at the helm of your business. Even more important is that you show your reader that you understand there is a person at the helm of their business.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    Another example is to show your clients what they can depend on from your company. There, I think third person works well.

    "You get a professional (writer, developer, designer) with XX years of experience."
    um... that's second person, darling

    third person actually sounds monstrously phoney
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    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by r937 View Post
    um... that's second person,
    No,

    "a professional (writer, developer, designer) with XX years of experience"

    is definitely third person.

    "I" or "Me" is first person and "You" is second person.

    So for it to be second person the sentence would read "You get you."
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    When i build up my website and put up my first article on the blog i was guided not to write it at the first person"i" because it will get a personal note and i had to focus on professional part.So i did

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    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    You could go both ways at once by writing articles using third person and placing a blog alongside it where you use first person.
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    sorry, the sentece i quoted ~does~ use second person --

    "You get a professional (writer, developer, designer) with XX years of experience."

    You = subject (second person)
    get = verb
    {a ... } = object
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    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by r937 View Post
    sorry, the sentece i quoted ~does~ use second person --

    "You get a professional (writer, developer, designer) with XX years of experience."

    You = subject (second person)
    get = verb
    {a ... } = object
    Well you need to put in a heading:

    "What do you get from Company Name?

    You get a professional... (and so forth)"

    That is third person.
    Linda Jenkinson
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    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by r937 View Post
    sorry, the sentece i quoted ~does~ use second person --

    "You get a professional (writer, developer, designer) with XX years of experience."

    You = subject (second person)
    get = verb
    {a ... } = object
    It only uses second person in that it is addressing the reader. Both first person and third person use address the reader using second person and so that the reader is the second person meant by "you" is a given.

    The subject of a particular sentence may be second person (and many ought to be whether you are writing in first person or third person) but that doesn't make the entire content second person since the first or third person relates to the way the topic is presented and not to the way you address the person reading it. It would make no sense NOT to address the reader in the second person. It is how you refer to yourself (1st or 3rd perason) that is what is being discussed.

    You get my professional services -- first person
    You get a professional service -- third person
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    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    It only uses second person in that it is addressing the reader.
    precisely what this thread is about, and i'm glad you agree with me

    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    You get my professional services -- first person
    You get a professional service -- third person
    sorry, no

    your entire rationalization (or whatever you call it) just doesn't cut the mustard

    i know english, and both of those sentences are second person

    you can call it whatever you like

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    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by r937 View Post
    I know english, and both of those sentences are second person
    I agree that both of them have a second person subject but that is NOT what the thread is about. The thread is about whether the entire article is written referring to yourself and your services personally using first person or impersonally using third person. Whether the subject of individual sentences is first, second, or third person is completely irrelevant. That the subject of a single sentence in an article is second person does not make the ENTIRE ARTICLE second person.

    Using second person to write an article is rarely done because doing so implies that you are the intended reader as then all of the "you" references in what you are writing are references to yourself rather than to the person reading it.

    An article written in first person personal will contain references to I, us, my, our and similar so as to make the references personal whereas an article written in third person impersonal will replace those references with a, the and similar so as to make the article less personal. If you write the article using second person introspective the you are refering to yourself as 'you'.

    As an example:

    First person (personal):
    It was a mistake for me to believe what I read about how inefficient ORDER BY RAND is.

    Second person (introspective):
    You shouldn't have believed what you read about the inefficiency of ORDER BY RAND.

    Third person (impersonal):
    Some articles discussing ORDER BY RAND imply that it is far less efficient than it really is compared to the alternatives.
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    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    You get my professional services -- first person
    You get a professional service -- third person
    Using that logic "I have been thinking about her all day" is third person ...

    Both are indeed second person.

    If you don't believe me (and Rudy) check here, here, or here.
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    no it isn't

    - He gets a professional -- that's third person

    - They get a professional -- that's third person

    - You get a professional -- that's second person

    sorry, but i did take english in school, ya know
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    Arguments aside, I think you shouldn't get too hung up on first, second or third person. The style you choose should fit what you're trying to achieve and what you want the reader to understand, feel, think, etc as they read your page.
    On some pages you'll want to discuss a topic which might call for a definite third person style. On other pages you'll want a conversational tone which may call for a mixture of approaches as you tell the reader a bit about you, your service, what they can expect and what they might need to do.
    I firmly believe that where you want to describe a person and their experience to give the reader confidence, first person works the best. It's a personal introduction by the person concerned and they're telling you, the reader, about themselves.
    I rarely dwell on first, second or third person. Some of my best and most successful articles written for web content talk directly to the reader and use the word 'you' often.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cmdweb View Post
    Arguments aside, I think you shouldn't get too hung up on first, second or third person. The style you choose should fit what you're trying to achieve and what you want the reader to understand, feel, think, etc as they read your page.
    On some pages you'll want to discuss a topic which might call for a definite third person style. On other pages you'll want a conversational tone which may call for a mixture of approaches as you tell the reader a bit about you, your service, what they can expect and what they might need to do.
    I firmly believe that where you want to describe a person and their experience to give the reader confidence, first person works the best. It's a personal introduction by the person concerned and they're telling you, the reader, about themselves.
    I rarely dwell on first, second or third person. Some of my best and most successful articles written for web content talk directly to the reader and use the word 'you' often.

    Eggs-actly. Well said!
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    felgall, i don't know why you keep moaning

    shyflower gave a particular sentence as an example of third person, and it wasn't

    nice attempted backpedal, dude
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    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Rudy: the distinction that Stephen is making is correct.
    I can say, "Rudy is my friend." Although 'my' is an adjective, and Rudy is the subject, the sentence is in first person.
    Alternatively, if I said, "Rudy is Shyflower's friend." That sentence would be in third person. Same subject, but the modifier changes it to third person.

    Take it to a business level and say "Shyflower's clients are happy people." (I hope!)

    That sentence is in third person.

    If I say "My clients are happy people," that sentence is in first person, regardless of the fact that in both cases 'clients' are the subject of the sentence.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    I can say, "Rudy is my friend." Although 'my' is an adjective, and Rudy is the subject, the sentence is in first person.
    i'm sorry, no it is not

    flat out no

    please, folks, stop trying to convince or persuade me

    i know my grammar
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    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Rudy, no one is disagreeing with you as to what you are saying. Just that the subject of a single sentence isn't relevant to a discussion about first person or third person articles since both may include sentences that have a second person subject.

    Any ARTICLE written in first or third person will have sentences that have a second person subject. That doesn't make the article second person. Whether an article is first or third person depends on whether the author refers to themselves as I/me/us/we in order to make the references personal or alternatively use third person and write as if they were a third party rather than the author.

    None of that affects the fact that the reader is second person. All Rudy's comments in this thread are all about the subject of a single sentence being second person which is entirely out of context to what the OP was asking about. No one has disagreed with Rudy with regard to what he is talking about but that isn't relevant to what the OP asked about.

    Constraints both in post length and the amount of time it takes to write mean that single sentence examples are being used to discuss the difference between first and third person but to keep the discussion in context to what the OP asked you have to imagine that is only one of perhaps several hundred sentences in the article and while the particular example sentence may have a second person subject a good portion of the sentences in the article will not.
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    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    Rudy, no one is disagreeing with you as to what you are saying.
    coulda fooled me, todd

    roflcopter
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    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by r937 View Post
    coulda fooled me,
    What you have been saying is correct. It is just completely irrelevant and off topic in relation to what is being discussed.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    What you have been saying is correct. It is just completely irrelevant and off topic in relation to what is being discussed.
    okay, let's get back on topic and discuss this ...
    Using second person to write an article is rarely done because doing so implies that you are the intended reader as then all of the "you" references in what you are writing are references to yourself rather than to the person reading it.
    that's incorrect, felgall

    all of the "you" references in an article written in second person are references to the reader

    and please don't tell me that my contributions to this thread are "completely irrelevant and offtopic"

    i've told you at least a thousand times, stop using hyperbole
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