When and Why You Should Tell Your Story in Second Person Instead of First

Our theme for this week is about connecting with your audience through story. And, one of the best ways to do this is to write in second person.

In other words, speak directly to your reader by using the word “you.”

Writing in second person is compelling because it immediately puts your reader in the story. The reader tends to imagine himself as the “you” in the situation you’re describing.

For example …

Have you ever wanted more in life? Do you wake up and look around at your tired existence and wonder if you’re missing out? Life shouldn’t center on your to-do piles and overflowing Inbox. You know you deserve better, and now’s your chance to get it.

Contrast that with this …

I just … I don’t know, I want more out of life. I wake up and look around at my tired existence and feel like I’m missing out. Life shouldn’t revolve around my to-do piles and overflowing inbox. I deserve better. And now I have the chance to get it.

Which version most made you want to keep reading? Chances are it was the one that put “you” in the story.

But, as powerful as the word “you” can be, it’s sometimes better replaced with first person, or “I.”

For instance, it’s a good idea to use “I” when you’re writing about a problem someone doesn’t want to admit, or maybe it’s something that embarrasses them. In that case, use first person while you’re talking about the problem. That way, your reader relates to you without feeling called out. Then, switch to second person when you give them the solution. For example …

I tried to ignore it at first. I combed my hair forward. I wore more hats. But in just a few months, it was clear my hairline had moved back an inch. And it kept retreating. I was embarrassed to go out. Ashamed, even. Worst of all, I knew if I didn’t act fast, I’d be bald by the end of the year.

Little did I know I’d find the solution I needed in a pill. If you’d like to experience a similar solution that’s safe and proven to curb hair loss, dial this number …

Do you see how that worked? Nobody wants to be told they’re overweight or lazy or balding. But they’re fine with being told they can get thin, have more energy, or prevent hair loss.

Try this. Pick a health issue you’ve had experience with. Write a 300-word article about it in first person. Then do 300 words about the same topic, but in second person. Read each aloud to see which one draws you in more. (What did you think? Share your thoughts here.)

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to use stories when you’re advocating an idea or a cause. It could mean the difference between a few hundred donated dollars … or a million-dollar campaign.

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Published: June 3, 2015

5 Responses to “When and Why You Should Tell Your Story in Second Person Instead of First”

  1. The "I" and "You" info was excellent.

    Guest (Joe Brasher)

  2. I like stories. I read stories. I don't think I will have a problem writing stories. My dad was a born storyteller. He was full of stories. It used to annoy me, but what I wouldn't give now to hear one of my Dad's embarrassing stories. He grew up during the depression, one of 10 kids and he was poorly educated, but boy could he tell a story.He bought his first bicycle by picking blackberries and selling them for a penny a pint. Can you imagine? He picked enough to buy a Shwinn bike & he rode.


  3. I didn't need to write the paragraphs, I can answer by saying writing with I works better in some ways. Writing with "you" sometimes convicts the reader. Writing with "I" helps them realize they aren't alone, another connects with their issue(s), and they'll reply or respond faster and stronger when you switch to "How do you handles such issues?" "What have you experienced in this situation?" This draws the reader into the story and you get a great resource of ideas, replies and followers.

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

    Linda H

  4. I enjoyed this exercise, enlisting my husband's services to provide me with feedback. He stated that, for him, the 1st person view was more powerful. I felt the same way. It portrayed the "pain" of the problem but wasn't as "threatening" as the 2nd person version. Thank you, Mindy, your guidance is invaluable!

    Stephanie E

  5. This is tricky, because it depends on what health issue your writing about. If it is a real personal issue. I think it's better talking in the first person, some people like to know that there not going this alone. I've also noticed that if people are going through health issues and their in a lot of pain or if its affecting their everyday life. The second person might be better.

    Or you can write your story by being ominous.

    Either way you have to really know your audience.

    Theresa Schevis

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