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How to write a paper in third person: Tips to observe

In narrative writing, there are various ways of putting your story across. If you’ve chosen to tell a story and be separate from it, then you are writing your paper in the third person. So what does this form of writing entail when exercised and what are the various ways in which you can write in the third person?

The basics of writing in the third person - Pronouns

Words like I, we and us are no longer present unless they are being quoted, because you do not feature in the tale you are relaying. Instead, pronouns such as they, he, them or herself are used to describe the speaking, doing and thinking of the characters. Knowing this rule can also allow you to bend it if you want a bit of a dramatic ending. You can speak of all characters as being separate from yourself, and then tell the reader at the end that the writer was actually one of the characters the whole time. This isn’t often done, but when it is, it should be done to effect a twist or a climax that’s relevant to the story.

Past tense, and past perfect tense – Knowing the difference

When writing in the third person, you will always speak in the past tense as a general rule. However, when relaying past information within a setting, the past perfect tense is used.

  • An example of past tense would be, “She found the key.” This is used to describe something that is busy happening in the story.
  • An example of the past perfect tense is, “She told Mary how she had found the key.” The character is telling Mary right now (relayed as past tense), how she had found the key earlier (relayed as past perfect tense).

Objective, Limited or Omniscient?

  • Objective: Where academic papers are concerned, third person objective is the most common form of third person writing. This means that you are a completely uninvolved observer relaying the thoughts, words and actions of characters as they happen.
  • Limited: This form of third party writing means that you know only as much as the main character knows. If someone is plotting to kill your character, the reader won’t know about it until it is made known to the character.
  • Omniscient: This is where the writer knows everything about every character and chooses to reveal what they want, when they want.

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