Writers should avoid using second person point of view. 

This means that the words you, your, you're, yours, and yourself are off limits

Using the word you is not grammatically incorrect, of course, but it is often stylistically incorrect because it may inappropriately limit or define the reading audience.  In addition, using the word you makes a writing sample too informal for the college arena. 

So how do we avoid using second person point of view?

It depends on the situation, but these guidelines may help: 

  • When giving directions or commands, try simply removing the word you, and then check to see whether the sentence still reads sensibly. 

    • Poor:  First, you make sure the electricity is turned off at the breaker box.

    • Better:  First, make sure the electricity is turned off at the breaker box.  (This is that understood you that grammar teachers talk about.  Unfortunately, many of us never really understood it at all. 


  • When giving directions or commands, sometimes it helps to apply a label to the person performing the action. 

    • Poor:  First, you arrange your supplies: canvas, paint, and brushes.

    • Better:  First, artists should arrange their supplies: canvas, paint, and brushes. 


  • Sometimes we use you when we really mean me or they

    • Poor:  After you eat a spinach salad, you should always brush your teeth.

    • Better:  After I eat a spinach salad, I always brush my teeth.  (This is still in first person, however.)

    • Even Better:  Because spinach has a tendency to get caught in between the teeth, it is always a good idea to brush after eating it.  (This is written in third person point of view.)

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This page was created by Joan Bruckwicki, English Instructor at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas.