Blog Writing – Finding the Right “Person”

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Every blogger has a different approach to things. Some talk about politics, others about their personal fiction projects. Some adopt a more serious tone, while others go for satire or outright comedy. Certain blogs might be more confrontational than others, and the topics covered can range from niche to popular appeal, often within the same blog.

There are a host of articles and sites covering advice on how to address various topics, but one area that doesn’t get a lot of attention is what “person” to write the blog in. Each linguistic person has its own strengths and weaknesses, depending on the message that needs to be covered. Ultimately, most will simply write in whatever person is most natural to them, but there is some merit in taking a bit of time to think about the implications, advantages and disadvantages of each.

First Person

I think, I want, I feel, I know… the first person is generally the default for blogging purposes. It’s an instinctive way to think: We view the world from our own frame of reference and it’s entirely natural to carry that perspective into the realm of blogging. After all, they’re our own thoughts, so we’re going to frame them from our perspective.

First person is an excellent choice for writing a personal blog. As said, it’s a natural voice to write in, so extending that to speaking about highly personal topics is a good way to capitalize on the effect. People like the inside look at things, and want to feel they have a special understanding of a subject. When people they care about – be they authors, politicians, theorists or actors – talk about their personal feelings, it offers a glimpse into their window of thought. This effect can be lost in a third-person blog.

On the other hand, the first person can portray a degree of self-involvement that might put readers off. Not everyone cares what any particular individual thinks about a particular topic. If you say, “I believe the following…” then some readers have a natural tendency to ask, “Well, who are you?” This effect can be countered with the citation of facts and figures or quotations, but it’s still a phenomenon the first-person blogger has to overcome. The reaction may not even be a conscious one on the part of readers, further complicating this choice.

Third Person

Third person is the perspective of choice for blogs about business or broad-reaching topics that aren’t specifically focused on the personality of the blogger. The third person displays a degree of detachment and professionalism that allows for cool and apparently impartial assessments of any given matter. However, third person writing can also be emotionally powerful. Telling the story of a third party without the overt interjection of the writer’s opinion is an excellent use of the third person device. It allows readers to get past the idea of someone writing the blog and get right to the emotional impact of the story itself, to get drawn in and engage with the subject matter.

Comparatively, few blogs about personality are written exclusively in the third person. After all, the point of such a blog is to get into the mind of the writer, so what value would a more divorced approach like third person have? In such cases, the use of third person should be employed selectively rather than as the default. The personal “I” is too important to a blog centered on the personality for the third person to make any impact.

Second Person

Very few perspectives are as controversial as second person. Less than one half of one percent of any written works is published in the second, or “you,” person. It’s just not something that people instinctively work at. Folks don’t know how others think – it’s a defining trait of individuality. Assumptions can be made, but without the ability to actually get into someone’s head, the ability to understand and interpret their thoughts is limited to context, past experiences and a healthy degree of intuition, so most people avoid writing in second person because it’s too unpredictable. The weakness hinges on, “You know that…” often being answered, “No, I don’t.”

For these reasons and others, the second person is often ignored. It makes people too uncomfortable when used on its own, and it’s often dismissed as nothing more than a literary attention getting stunt rather than a serious writing effort.

However, once again, there is a value to the second person, particularly when mixed with first person. An instructional blog talking about something of interest to reader and writer is a great example of this. “I find that you’ll want to spoon the mustard before the honey, so the honey doesn’t stick to the spoon.” This blending of persons makes the entire discussion more personal, drawing the reader in to a cooperative element with the writer.

Furthermore, the second person is an excellent choice for confrontational blogs. Sometimes a blog is written for an angle of activism and education, and presenting uncomfortable facts and figures with the association of “you” can do a lot to bring the message home to the audience.

So whatever choice I/you/one uses, spend a little time thinking about the others, and if they might find a place in a particular piece.

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