Point of View
Commonly Misused and Misspelled Words
Style chapter overview: Simplicity: Simplicity does not mean writing simple sentences. A series of short simple sentences can sound too simple and unsophisticated in academic writing. Simplicity in writing is trimming the fat which is eliminating the wordiness and saying what you want to say clearly and directly. A reader cannot be convinced of your point if they get lost in the sentences.
Point of View: Point of view refers to the position from which a writer “speaks” to their audience. Writers must be careful and maintain a consistent point of view. Academic writing should primarily rely on third person point of view to appear objective with minimal instances of first person point of view.
Word Choice: You want to choose the best, most effective words to form clear and convincing sentences. So what makes the best word choices? When writing academic essays, you want to use concrete and specific words that directly engage the senses and give precise meaning. Concrete words refer to objects that we can hear, see, feel, touch, and/or smell.
Sentence Crafting: You want to consciously create clear and focused sentences by using energetic verbs (replace the bland verb “to be” when you can), preferring the active voice (rather than passive voice), and choosing clear noun references (don’t use vague pronouns that don’t have a clear referent).
Sentence Combining: Trying to achieve simplicity in your writing does not mean writing only in short sentences. If your essays are filled with short sentences, they will read as choppy and the relationships between the sentences will not be as clear. Combining or joining sentences can convey your ideas more fluidly and logically. However, you also want rhythm in your writing which can be created through varied sentence length and structure. Include short sentences for impact.
Parallelism: Parallelism is giving two or more parts of a sentence a similar form so as to give the passage a definite pattern and to give the ideas the same level of importance and a balance.
Commonly Misused and Misspelled Words: As English teachers who read a lot of essays, we see some words that are regularly used incorrectly, and we see some words that are commonly misspelled. Consult the lists provided to avoid common errors.
“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” ― Bruce Lee
William Zinsser, an expert on writing and author of On Writing Well, said: “The sentence is too simple—there must be something wrong with it. But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what—these are a thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.”
Simplicity does not mean writing simple sentences. A series of short simple sentences (He went to the store. The store was far. The day was hot. He was tired.) can sound too simple and unsophisticated in academic writing. You want complexity in your sentences, but that does not mean cramming in smart-sounding words and making long rambling sentences.
Simplicity in writing is trimming the fat which is eliminating the wordiness and saying what you want to say clearly and directly. A reader cannot be convinced of your point if they get lost in the sentences.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Simplicity in writing is beneficial because…
think that’s what teachers want, then the sentences are not always as easy to follow and can
confuse your reader.
(2) sentences that are clear and easy to follow are then easier for your reader to follow and
eventually be convinced by the points that you are trying to make.
(3) the more that writers can strip down their sentences to the most important parts, they can
better control what they want to say and shape the meaning in the writing they are striving to
Let’s try that again. Simplicity in writing is beneficial because…
(1) direct sentences are clearer.
(2) direct sentences are more convincing.
(3) writers can better control and shape meaning.
HOW DO I DO IT?
Take notice of common expressions that are needlessly wordy and trim them:
A common violation of conciseness is the presentation of a single complex idea, step by step, in a series of sentences which might better be combined into one:
Macbeth was very ambitious. This led him to wish to become king of Scotland. The witches told him that this wish of his would come true. The king of Scotland at this time was Duncan. Encouraged by his wife, Macbeth murdered Duncan. He was thus enabled to succeed Duncan as king. (55 words)
Encouraged by his wife, Macbeth achieved his ambition and realized the prediction of the witches by murdering Duncan and becoming king of Scotland in his place.
The active voice is more concise and vigorous than the passive.
The large chunks of debris covering the roof and clogging the drainpipes were removed by city workers.
City workers removed the large chucks of debris covering the roof and clogging the drainpipes.
The active voice can also strengthen bland expressions and wordy phrasing:
There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground.
Dead leaves covered the ground.
The reason that he left college was that his health became impaired.
Failing health compelled him to leave college.
It was not long before he was very sorry that he had said what he had.
He soon repented his words.
Revise the following passages, avoiding wordiness and undesirable repetition.
A large number of people enjoy reading murder mysteries regularly. As a rule, these people are not themselves murderers, nor would these people really ever enjoy seeing someone commit an actual murder, nor would most of them actually enjoy trying to solve an actual murder. They probably enjoy reading murder mysteries because of this reason: they have found a way to escape from the monotonous, boring routine of dull everyday existence.
To such people the murder mystery is realistic fantasy. It is realistic because the people in the murder mystery are as a general rule believable as people. They are not just made up pasteboard figures. It is also realistic because the character who is the hero, the character who solves the murder mystery, solves it not usually by trial and error and haphazard methods but by exercising a high degree of logic and reason. It is absolutely and totally essential that people who enjoy murder mysteries have an admiration for the human faculty of logic.
But murder mysteries are also fantasies. The people who read such books of fiction play a game. It is a game in which they suspend certain human emotions. One of these human emotions that they suspend is pity. If the reader stops to feel pity and sympathy for each and every victim that is killed or if the reader stops to feel terrible horror that such a thing could happen in our world of today, that person will never enjoy reading murder mysteries. The devoted reader of murder mysteries keeps uppermost in mind at all times the goal of arriving through logic and observation at the final solution to the mystery offered in the book. It is a game with life and death. Whodunits hopefully help the reader to hide from the hideous horrors of actual life and death in the real world.
WHAT IS POINT OF VIEW?
Point of view refers to the position from which writers “speak” to their audience. Writers have a point of view in all types of writing (and speaking), including emails, text messages, essays, articles, stories, etc.
Writers have three different options for point of view:
First person point of view makes direct references to the writer using the following pronouns: I, me, my, myself, mine, we, us, our, and ourselves.
Second person point of view makes direct references to the reader using the following pronouns: you, your, yourself, and yourselves.
Third person point of view directly states who or what the writing discusses without using first person pronouns; third person point of view uses the following pronouns: he, she, it, they, him, her, his, hers, its, itself, them, their, themselves, one, etc.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Although creative writing gives writers more flexibility with the point of view, academic essays typically use third person point of view (with minimal uses of first person point of view) because third person enhances credibility by appearing objective and also emphasizes the topic instead of the writer.
Here’s a guide for when you use which point of view and why:
First person point of view allows writers to write about themselves when including specific personal examples (“The author’s criticisms are accurate which I know from having also served in the army as a young woman”). In some projects, first person point of view can be used to show how a writer’s research or ideas build on or depart from the work of others.
Second person point of viewallows the writer to speak directly to the reader so is helpful in “how to” instruction (like in this Rhetoric); however, this is not commonly used in academic writing because it can include your readers in beliefs they may not share (“When you listen to the president, you wonder how he got elected.”). Using “you” can also be imprecise (“You can drive around for hours looking for parking.” This is not true for all. This is more precise: “San Franciscans can drive around for hours looking for parking.”). Using “you” is also more informal and conversational. For these reasons second person is not commonly used in academic writing.
Third person point of view allows the writer to appear objective and should be the primary point of view for academic essays and other formal types of communication.
HOW DO I USE IT?
As you write your essays, you will need to carefully consider how you use point of view so that your writing has a consistent voice throughout the essay. Let’s look at some basics on using point of view.
1. Consistent Point of View—Writers must be careful and maintain a consistent point of view; as noted above, academic writing should primarily rely on third person point of view with minimal instances of first person point of view. When writers switch the point of view within a sentence, the sentences may be confusing.
ORIGINAL: Students should make sure they register early for the Rock the School Bells conference since he will not have a chance to get tickets the day of the conference.
REVISED: Students should make sure they register early for the Rock the School Bells conference since they will not have a chance to get tickets the day of the conference.
Another consideration for a consistent point of view relates to using plural nouns and pronouns instead of the singular forms; this approach helps writers be more concise and avoid the unnecessary use of “he/she” and “him/her.” While “he/she” and “him/her” may be grammatically correct, you can achieve a stronger voice and better style by minimizing the use of these phrases.
ORIGINAL: A student should make sure he/she signs up early for the workshops he/she wants to attend for his/her classes.
REVISED: Students should make sure they sign up early for the workshops they want to attend for their classes.
2. Personal examples—When you include personal examples or experiences to illustrate a point in an academic essay, you should not refer to yourself in the third person. On the contrary, you should definitely use first person point of view to avoid accidental changes in point of view as well as to avoid awkward references to yourself.
ORIGINAL: Last year, Rachel Everett attended the Rock the School Bells conference, and I learned the history of hip hop. (NOTE: the writer, Rachel Everett, first refers to herself in the third person and switches to first person in the second half of the sentence)
REVISED: Last year, I attended the Rock the School Bells conference, and I learned the history of hip hop.
3. Unnecessary use of first person—When writing academic essays, you will often need to make an argument, which requires you to state your opinion on the topic and sources. You do not need to use phrases like “I think/feel/believe” or “in my opinion.” If you have written a grammatically correct sentence, you will be able to simply delete these phrases (and still state your opinion).
ORIGINAL: I think Dyson misses the point when he argues that older generations do not appreciate hip hop because to me many parents and grandparents do appreciate hip hop.
REVISED: Dyson misses the point when he argues that older generations do not appreciate hip hop because many parents and grandparents do appreciate hip hop.
Point of View
Revise the following sentences to make the point of view consistent.
1. A student should seek help from counselors to make sure they have student educational
2. Professor Garcia’s classes teach students critical thinking while it also helps them improve
3. A new student must work hard to learn about the college resources he or she may need as
they begin their college careers.
4. If you want more active participation in class, teachers will appeal to different learning
Revise the following sentences to remove the unnecessary use of first person.
5. Skyline College has great programs to help students get a good education, so I think local
high school students should seriously consider starting their education here.
6. In my opinion, California should provide more funding to community college students
because I believe education should be a top priority for the government.