Referring To Yourself In 3rd Person

Here’s an article writing mistake to never make in your article body/content: Never refer to yourself in the 3rd person.

Seems like such an obvious ‘no no’ yet we see it every week here. I think I know why it happens…as it usually immediately tells us that the article was not written by the writer him or herself and that it was probably written by a press release writer or marketing copy writer who doesn’t fully understand that the point of the article body is to “GIVE” and share information rather than postulate or grandstanding your greatness.

Related stat: Of the ~20% of articles we aren’t able to accept, 6.6% of them are due to the fact that they are either press releases or the article reads like a press release. When an article looks like an article but feels like a press release, the first thing we look for is whether the author refers to him or herself in the 3rd person? If so, it’s gotta be a press release.

21 Comments »


1

Hi Chris!

Since I write my articles alone I can tell a lot about my life and my experiences, what is quite appreciated by most readers. This is a possibility ghost writers cannot have!

Which is the solution for ghost writers that have to say something about the supposed author of their article?
Should they adopt their clients’ identity and use the word ‚¬“I‚¬ as if they were the person they were representing?
Or should they avoid mentioning anything about the supposed author, since they cannot pretend they are their clients?

Comment provided September 25, 2007 at 11:57 AM

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2
Lance Winslow writes:

Interesting concept. Occassionally, I have accidently referred to myself in 3rd person, when writing an article where I refer to top people in a field and then refer to a story or event or experience of my own. Since, I am writing in 3rd person already about others, I find myself continuing. Almost totally disconnected from the event or experience, describing it from a different perspective. Indeed, I did write it myself, just forgot to step back into myself and write it from my POV, rather from a person witnessing the event or even considering the event from a future 20/20 hindsight and reflecting upon the event, where although it was I as one of the characters in the event or experience, as a writer or teller of said story, I describe it from what a by-stander might say they saw while witnessing it. Does that make sense? I will have to work on this 3rd person issue, as I write, but I bet I am not the only one who does this from time to time.

Indeed, I have seen the other’s articles that are in third person, and usually you can tell that it is like Chris said, it was obviously written by someone else and then used as content by the writer. If someone uses a PR piece and then modifies it, that is exactly what happens. I have at times tried to modify PR pieces for websites and then slip back into first person, while touching them up so they say what I wanted the message to say. This looks rather funky, because the 1st and 3rd person mix, looks all messed up. I think if you use PR pieces lets say on your website and then make them into article content, really you know, you are better to start all over.

The easiest way to start over is to take the PR piece and make a quick outline of the main points.

I. Paragraph 1

1. Point A

2. Point B

II. Paragraph II

1. Point A

2. Point B

III. Conclusion

And then re-write it, it will be much better that way and you will not look so silly in the end. This is how I re-do old PR webcontent into articles if the infact the PR content is even valid at worthy now in the present. Anyway, think on this, perhaps I can learn from anyone out there with advice on this subject. Tell me what you think? Thank you – Lance

Comment provided September 25, 2007 at 2:35 PM

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3
Edward Weiss writes:

George is getting upset! Remember that from Seinfeld?

Seriously, referring to yourself in the third person is pretty pompous … and it’s really starting to get on Ed’s nerves … :)

Comment provided September 25, 2007 at 3:11 PM

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4

Hi Lance!

I think you really have to re-write everything when you use a PR. You are already helped with the ready content you find.
It won’t be so hard to re-write everything in the proper way if you want to turn it in an article.

Comment provided September 25, 2007 at 3:38 PM

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5
Lance Winslow writes:

Christina,

I agree and to that point, would never personally re-write any PR content that was not owned by me in the first place, as that is borderline on the ethics. And yes, I agree that re-writing “everything” would be the best way to do this. In fact, if one looks at their own website or old content that has been updated, much of that content can be re-written into articles. Better yet, each point should be made into a topic for an article. Because when you write PR, advertising, you discuss problems, solutions and what is in it for the customer. These are all issues of importance for articles that capture the thoughts of the reader, because PR and Advertising are meant to cause a reaction, thought or get someone to make a decision.

So, whereas re-writing PR, may not be a typical strategy, it can work, but only if it is done correctly, I think Chris shows us one problem that occurs when it is done wrong.

Comment provided September 25, 2007 at 4:20 PM

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6

Rewriting everything from the beginning one can use the necessary words and give the right emphasis.
If on the contrary one tries to transform the PR as it is in an article changing only a few words, the result will be poor and ugly.

Comment provided September 25, 2007 at 4:34 PM

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7
Lance Winslow writes:

I tend to agree with this and example after example shows that this is indeed fact.

Comment provided September 25, 2007 at 4:44 PM

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8
Emma writes:

I always write my articles in the first person, but I’m never quite sure how I should do the resource box.

In some I’ll say “Emma blah blah blah” and in other’s I’ll put “My” or “mine” or something like that. Any thoughts on whether first or third person is best in the resource box?

Comment provided September 25, 2007 at 5:33 PM

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9

Hi Emma!

You have to use only the 3rd person when writing your resource box, while you shall use only the first person when writing an article. This is not a suggestion, but a lesson from experts.

I think everybody should know it. In the beginning I didn’t know it too! I delayed a lot to learn it because I didn’t care about this matter in my busy life! However, the resource box is very important!

Comment provided September 25, 2007 at 6:14 PM

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10

Edward,

Chris laughed out loud at your comment today.

Comment provided September 25, 2007 at 8:02 PM

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11
Vern writes:

Wow, I see now that there is a
resemblance of a press release
when there is a reference of a 3rd person.

What I could say is that not everyone
could write in the 1st person because
that would cause too much self-promotion
in a sense?

In anycase, this is a good issue to bring
up.

Also, I’ve worked with some ghostwriters
before and agree with you guys about this
fact that they don’t have the ‘personal touch’.
It does sound weird to refer to yourself as
a third party mainly because they probably
do not have that much of direct response
experience. For instance, yes the article
is quite good but it looks like just another
piece of information without any personal
touch – so in retrospect a little spice of
“my, myself and I” should be fine?

Care to comment?

Vern

Comment provided September 26, 2007 at 12:22 AM

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12

Vern,

This is not only a question of using a few words to show to the public that the article was written by certain author.
Your voice as a narrator has to have a personal tone.

Comment provided September 26, 2007 at 6:26 AM

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13

Hi! Ed, I laughed at your comment too. Especially because I cracked a Seinfeld joke in my blog last night, so I was already in the mode.

Remember: articles offer advice. Ad copy persuades. Press releases tell a story.

http://ezinearticles.com/?What-Makes-Web-Press-Releases-Different-from-Traditional-Ones?&id=414489

Let’s say Lance was writing about running cars on peanut oil. If this were a web article he might title it:

Alternative Fuel Sources: How to Make Your Truck Run on Peanut Oil

If this were a press release there would have to be legitimate, reportable news on the topic. The title of the release could be:

Man Builds Car That Runs on Peanut Oil

If this were a sales page, you might open with:

Worried About Fossil Fuel and Your Future?
Find Out How Cars Can Run on Vegetable Oil… for Peanuts!

(Cut me a break here – I just rattled this off. The point is, starting with the titles, you can already see the switches from second (you) to third person (he) and back to second (you) in each example.

Comment provided September 26, 2007 at 6:59 AM

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14

PS – Great topic, Chris. Forgot to say that while I was scurrying about trying to find article links.

Comment provided September 26, 2007 at 7:01 AM

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15
Lance Winslow writes:

Peanut Oil is a great subject indeed, especially since it has been available since 1900 after introduced at the Paris World Exposition by none other than Rudolf “DIESEL” and who knows if oil prices get any higher we might be using it again?

http://ezinearticles.com/?Peanut-Oil-Bio-Diesel&id=188389

I believe this was an article written by Lance? Gosh Dina, you are great with key-word titles for maximium impact.

Comment provided September 26, 2007 at 10:28 AM

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16

Lance, Christina read your article and she liked it very much!
In Brazil they use alcohol as flammable for their cars. It works! And in Brazil alcohol is very cheap!
Here in Greece it’s quite expensive! I wouldn’t help.

Comment provided September 26, 2007 at 12:36 PM

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17

Lance,

I knew you’d come through with the link. Thank you!

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to grab the *exact* article you need from a prolific writer who saturates many topics, but you don’t know the title of the article?

It’s not easy, lemme tell ya.

Comment provided September 26, 2007 at 12:48 PM

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18
Lance Winslow writes:

Since Lance uses the EzineArticle.com website to store his content, as well as to attract people interested in a topic to come to his website, he employs the “Search Feature” and searches “Winslow + topic” and generally he is rewarded with a number of articles on the subject. For instance he might write “Lance Peanut Oil” or “Lance BioDiesel peanut oil.”

Lance’s strategy works well for this even if he is stuck in the 3rd person all day!

Comment provided September 26, 2007 at 1:00 PM

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19

Hi Lance,

I looked to Google for the answer. I searched “Lance Winslow” “french fry oil” and came up dry.

The problem is, I’d forgotten the title!

Comment provided September 26, 2007 at 8:37 PM

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20
Lance Winslow writes:

Dina, I found it and it was difficult to find due to the title, I had to go into my Author Reports:

The Title was:

Oil Conservation Tip: Run Vehicles or Plant Security Robots on Cafeteria Cooking Oil

http://ezinearticles.com/?Oil-Conservation-Tip:-Run-Vehicles-or-Plant-Security-Robots-on-Cafeteria-Cooking-Oil&id=23115

Apparently, you are correct Dina, the searching system is much harder if you do not know the title. I wonder how many of the articles simply appear to be missing. I tried to look one up today on Environmental Friendly ways to clean boat hulls while in the water and I could not find it either.

So, you are very observant to notice this problematic situation. Meanwhile, I want everyone to know that I am making sure that I do not drift in and out of 3rd person while writing.

Comment provided October 3, 2007 at 1:42 AM

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21
Jan Verhoeff writes:

Okay – in the article, I stay first person, because I’m writing about me. BUT… in the box, I’m using my name, short of an introduction, which I think is as goshe as too many commas in a sentence, how do I keep it first person?

I’ve been editing some work for a client who keeps using ME as an example in his work. THAT is hard to do. Fortunately he uses a nickname most people don’t know me by, so when I screw up, it doesn’t haunt me too bad.

Comment provided October 4, 2007 at 5:09 PM

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