How to write in second person

How to write in second person

When to include the word «you» in your writing
  • When writing second person, you can be singular or plural.
  • Second person writing can be used for guides and manuals, and in articles providing instructions or advice.
  • The you should refer to a reader who is seeking guidance, information or advice.


Step 1

Second person titles

The title of a second person article or a guides should clearly indicate that the content will inform a reader what to do and what to avoid. A title can also show what can be achieved by following advice given in the article or instructions set out in a manual.

Article titles can be written in second person, for instance a title could indicate Why you should… or ask Does your…?

Self help books, guides and manuals can be written to titles that refer to problems and ways to overcome them; How to boost your profits without cutting costs or Accomplish your weight loss goals the healthy way, for example.

Step 2

Use second person to suggest or command

Second person text can be used to suggest, to urge or to instruct. Writing in second person allows either firm commands to be made or to offer gentle advice.

«Prepare in advance» and «heat until boiling» are simple commands, whereas suggesting «you could…» or «you might want to…» allows readers to arrive at their own decisions about what advice they choose to follow.

Step 3

Read through and edit

Check the finished text to ensure it is consistent.

If publishing guidelines were to state clearly that there should be no use of first person, it would be necessary to edit out or replace any first person phrases and personal views.

Step 4

Maintain professionalism in writing

In second person writing it is important not to sign off with a thank you for reading or hope that you will find the tips in this article useful. In a piece of factual writing or an informational article it would be unprofessional to address readers in this way.

Things Needed
• A conversational style of writing.
• Ability to write at length without stating what «I» think, what is «my» experience or what «we» ought to do.

Tips and warnings

• Write second person as if addressing an individual, informing that person what to do, with some helpful hints and friendly advice.
• Avoid writing general statements like «People should…» or absolutes like «Humans are….» Focus instead on writing about what the reader needs to know.


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