third-person point of view
By Richard Nordquist, About.com Guide
The use of third-person pronouns such as he, she, and they to relate events in a work of
fiction or nonfiction.
There are three main types of third-person point of view:
Third-Person Objective: the facts of a narrative are reported by a seemingly
neutral, impersonal observer or recorder. For an example, see "The Rise of Pancho Villa,"
by John Reed.
Third-Person Omniscient: an all-knowing narrator not only reports the facts but
may also interpret events and relate the thoughts and feelings of any character. The novels
Middlemarch, by George Eliot, and Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, employ the third-
person-omniscient point of view.
Third-Person Limited: a narrator reports the facts and interprets events from the
perspective of a single character. For an example, see Katherine Mansfield's short story
In addition, a writer may rely on a multiple or variable third-person point of view, in which the
perspective shifts from that of one character to another during the course of a narrative.
"Third-person point of view allows the author to be like a movie camera moving to
any set and recording any event, as long as one of the characters is lugging the camera. It
also allows the camera to slide behind the eyes of any character, but beware--do it too
often or awkwardly, and you will lose your reader very quickly. When using third person,
don't get in your characters' heads to show the reader their thoughts, but rather let their
actions and words lead the reader to figure those thoughts out."
(Bob Mayer, The Novel Writer's Toolkit: A Guide to Writing Novels and Getting Published.
Writer's Digest Books, 2003)
Third Person in Nonfiction
"In nonfiction, the third-person point of view is not so much omniscient as objective. It's
the preferred point of view for reports, research papers, or articles about a specific subject
or cast of characters. It's best for business missives, brochures, and letters on behalf of a
group or institution. See how a slight shift in point of view creates enough of a difference to
raise eyebrows over the second of these two sentences: 'Victoria's Secret would like to
offer you a discount on all bras and panties.' (Nice, impersonal third person.) 'I would like
to offer you a discount on all bras and panties.' (Hmmm. What's the intent there?) . . .
The third-person point of view remains the standard in news reporting and writing that
aims to inform, because it keeps the focus off the writer and on the subject."
(Constance Hale, Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose. Random