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15.5 Consistency: Making Pronoun Point of View Consistent

A paragraph or essay needs a dominant point of view that is reflected in the pronouns.

In this part of the country, if we want those little Mexican tomatoes called tomatillos we have to grow them ourselves. We can't expect to find them in the supermarkets. So instead, we order the seeds from a catalogue and plant them in flats right in our own kitchen. When the weather warms up, we keep them on the balcony. In a few months, they're just as juicy as the sweet little balls our mother used to prepare for us in dozens of fillings and sauces.

In the paragraph above, the events are described from a first person plural point of view, expressed in the pronouns we, our, and us. Person in grammar is a technical term separating nouns and pronouns into three groups:

  • first person = the speaker or writer (I, me, we, us)
  • second person = the listener or reader (you)
  • third person = everybody else (he, him, she, her, it, they, Mr. Max, love, a peanut)
Writing with a first person point of view emphasizes the writer's involvement in the events presented. Using the second person brings the reader into focus. Using the third person creates a more distant view of the event.

Application 7
Shifting pronouns without a good reason distracts a reader.

A girl who is looking for her first job knows you'll find help there.

Reading the sentence above, we picture a girl, and then suddenly the word you makes us picture ourselves and forget the girl for a minute. That is distracting. Within a sentence or a paragraph, pronouns should be consistent with the dominant point of view unless the writer deliberately wants to shift the reader's attention to another character or object.

Application 8


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