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Person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) in Process

Page history last edited by David Hodges 14 years ago

 

We Can Use 2nd Person in a Process Essay,

But Should We?

 

I've often discouraged you from using 2nd person in your essays because as you progress in your academic career, 2nd person becomes less and less acceptable. In college Composition classes, it is usually forbidden entirely, so the sooner you can learn to work without it, the better.

 

Yes, I do understand I just used 2nd person myself. The clause "you can learn to work without it" is 2nd person. The only reason 2nd person is acceptable on this page is that I am trying to provide instruction and give advice and to do so I want to speak to you directly. For exactly that reason, 2nd person is forbidden in academic essays because academic readers don't appreciate being lectured, advised, or told what they think.

 

A Review of Grammatical Person
First, a quick review of what the various grammatical persons look like:

     1st Person     When I house-train a puppy, I use the paper training method.

     2nd Person     When you house-train your puppy, use a simple paper training method.

     3rd Person     Successful dog trainers use a simple paper training method. (Active voice)

     3rd Person     Dogs can be trained using a simple paper training method. (Passive voice)

 

2nd Person in a Process Essay
Readers of cookbooks, instruction manuals, textbooks, workbooks, and newspaper advice columns, along with visitors to astrologers, are looking for advice. They expect to be told what to do in a systematic way. They don't mind being told, in fact they expect to be told, to "use a simple paper training method" as in the example above. And they don't mind being addressed as "you."

 

It's entirely acceptable and common in recipes, instructions, and manuals for writers to order their readers about. "Blend the eggs with the milk," they say, or "Before you put the cake in the oven, set the timer so you won't forget," or "For better results, you'll want to use clarified butter." This approach, however, is not the only way to write a process essay.

 

Choose the Person That Suits the Essay

Getting back to that puppy, please understand you still have the entire range of persons at your command. Process essays don't have to be instruction manuals. They can be narratives that describe how a process took place or takes place. They can be descriptions of how others accomplish a process.

 

Which Person is This? Does it work?

Nothing can spoil the joy of your new puppy as completely as accidents in the house, but accidents aren't inevitable. House-train your new puppy using a simple paper training technique. First thing in the morning, or after dinner, when the puppy is likely to urinate, place it in an area covered with paper and praise it lavishly when you get the desired result. Gradually remove the paper until the puppy successfully uses just a single sheet.

 

Which Person is This? Does it work?

Nothing can spoil the joy of a new puppy as completely as accidents in the house, but accidents aren't inevitable. Puppies can be house-trained using a simple paper training technique. First thing in the morning, or after dinner, whenever the puppy is likely to urinate, the puppy is placed in an area covered with paper and praised lavishly when it performs. Gradually, the paper is removed until the puppy successfully uses just a single sheet.

 

Which Person is This? Does it work?

Nothing can spoil the joy of a new puppy as completely as accidents in the house, but accidents aren't inevitable. I've house-trained several puppies using a simple paper training technique. First thing in the morning, or after dinner, when the puppy is likely to urinate, I place it in an area covered with paper and praise it lavishly when I get the desired result. Gradually, I remove the paper until the puppy successfully uses just a single sheet.

 

Consistency is the Best and Safest Choice

My only other advice would be to choose one person and stick with it. But even that is flexible. You could write a first-person narrative in which you relate how you house-trained your puppy, mention in your essay how experts suggest the job be done, and end by advising your readers to "choose whichever method works best for you and your puppy." So, it's possible for writers with enough skill to blend 1st, 3rd, and 2nd person into one essay.

 

Comments (8)

WeiWeiZheng said

at 12:19 pm on Jun 26, 2010

Professor Hodges, it's ok to write a one paragraph essay for the process due on Monday, or must need 5 paragraphy consider introduction, body,and concluding. My process essay was one paragraph about introduction, body, and concluding. Shall I write 5 paragrahy on that.

David Hodges said

at 2:13 pm on Jun 26, 2010

Thanks for your question, WeiWei. This is not a formal 100 point major essay assignment. It's homework and will be graded but weighed like homework, not like an essay. So yes, the short answer is you can write a well-developed paragraph, let it sit for a day, apply the Self-Editing Worksheet, and write a 2nd draft; then turn in all three pieces Monday.

WeiWeiZheng said

at 2:54 pm on Jun 26, 2010

Thanks, now I don't need to worry about.

NOURHAN IBRAHIM said

at 6:35 pm on Jun 26, 2010

Hello professor Hodges,
How can I make a process essay for a person who already close to me?
Thank you.

David Hodges said

at 9:16 pm on Jun 26, 2010

Hello, Nora. I think you might be making a mistake. Your essay should never be written "for" a single person. Describe a process for a wide audience; it can include the person you know, but obviously there's no point describing a process to someone who already knows or understands it.

Am I following your question correctly?

NOURHAN IBRAHIM said

at 10:32 pm on Jun 26, 2010

You are exactly right professor, but that is not what I mean!
I want to make a process essay about the steps my son experienced, but I don't know the main point which you want to teach us during this page!
I apologize for that, but I would like to understand professor.
Thank you for your support.

David Hodges said

at 6:01 am on Jun 27, 2010

The main point of every process essay is to describe HOW one thing becomes another, Nora. How a broken computer becomes a repaired computer; how water rushing over a dam becomes electric power; how a helpless infant becomes a confident, independent young adult.

For your essay, about "How to Raise a Perfect Child," the emphasis is not on what your son experienced but on the steps you took to raise him. If they resulted in a perfect child, describing them carefully will be like giving advice to others about what steps to follow, first from birth to age 5, then from ages 5 to 10, then from ages 10 to 15. Each age requires the parent to behave in particular ways to achieve particular results.

A humorous article would follow the steps a parent took to raise a tomboy, or a nerd, or a hopeless neurotic. The tone can be as serious or as humorous as you like; the point is always to explain the process by describing the particular behaviors. Does that help?

NOURHAN IBRAHIM said

at 11:44 am on Jun 27, 2010

Thank you professor,
Before your recommendation, first and second draft are almost the same, but they are a big different between them now.
Thank you for each time that you learn me something different new. I appreciate it.

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