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Freelance Writing: First, Second or Third Person

Should freelance writers write in the first, second or third person? The answer to that question is a definitive… It all depends

Writing for Others

If you are hired as a freelance writer, after squaring away the scope of the project and the price, the next thing you should request is a style guide. Some projects don’t have a style guide, simply reviewing other articles or past completed work for the project can give you a good idea as to whether or not you should write in the first, second or third person. If you’re still unsure after reviewing past work, ask the editor.

Writing for Yourself:

  • Websites: If you’re developing a website my thought process was always to write in the third person unless it was an editorial. However, the Internet is a lot less formal off-line publications so writing in the second person is perfectly acceptable for many sites. However, there are some sites such as Suite 101.com that prohibit using first second or second person writing.
  • Blogs: When it comes to blogs, I strongly encourage first and second person writing. Blogs are expected to be personal. It’s tough to be warm and inviting when writing in the third person. It comes across a little clinical and impersonal (in my opinion). In addition to being warmer and more personal, writing in the first or second person makes it so much easier to come up with content. Since I’m more accustomed to thinking and speaking n the first or second person, it spills over into my writing.

A third person experienceWrite

Some of you may know that I write for Suite 101.com. Originally Suite accepted articles written in the second person (first person articles were a big no-no). They later changed their writing guidelines and nixed all second person writing. They did not make the authors go back and re-work older articles, but they no longer accepted new articles in the second person.

Since Suite 101 instituted this change, I find it takes more time and effort to write for them. It seems to take the friendliness out of the articles and inserts a more authoritative feel. Granted, Suite 101 is not in business to be warm and fuzzy and I do like earning a few bucks, so I have conformed to their writing guidelines.

The Long and the Short of it

To answer the original question whether or not to write in the first second or third person. The answer is a resounding…it depends.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • shirley Briggs September 10, 2008, 10:08 pm

    I found this very informative as I think I get mixed up in the first second and third person
    I presume that 3rd person is the more accepted way in Creative writing?

  • Felicia September 11, 2008, 6:58 am

    I’m glad it helped you, but please realize, I’m not a writing expert. I just happen to be able to earn money from it, but by no means am I an authority.

    As far as creative writing goes, that all depends. Most of my writing is non-fiction and not creative, so I’m speaking from that side of the coin. As far as creative writing goes, you might want to check a few more authoritative sites. Here’s a list of Writers Digest 101 Best Sites. I’m sure you’ll find some answers there.

  • Julie M January 30, 2009, 1:38 am

    I just wrote a blog about writing voice. It can be tricky. Speaking of Suite, I have been earning nada on that site. It is very discouraging.

    Julie Ms last blog post..Different Styles of Writing: Finding Your Voice

  • Felicia January 30, 2009, 7:13 am

    Hang in there Julie,

    This month so far has been my most lucrative month with Suite.

  • Julie M January 30, 2009, 8:21 pm

    I will hang in there, it just gets frustrating! Thanks for you input into my blog. That is a good point about putting on our “grown up voice” for different formats.

    Julie Ms last blog post..Different Styles of Writing: Finding Your Voice

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