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Me, You and Them: First Person vs Second Person vs Third Person Narration for Whiteboard Animations

First Person: “I found a matchbox on the ground.”

Second Person: “You wondered if your pants were flammable.”

Third Person: “The firefighter accidentally got the cat wet.”

When you’re writing a script, how do you know which perspective to use? It depends on your goals. Let’s talk about the times when you might want to use first, second and third person narrative for explainer animations.

First Person:

“Here at Flopsy & Mopsy, we wanted to innovate the cotton ball!”

When an organization writes their own script draft, they almost always take on the first person frame — without even realizing they’re doing it.

It’s not hard to understand why: the first person is how we experience the world around us. It’s how we think, how we talk to our colleagues. And it’s hard to shake one’s own perspective.

It’s not always wrong… but ~85% of scripts would be strengthened with a pivot to the second person perspective.

The one time you get a free pass to stay in the first person is when you’re writing from an individual perspective. This could be sharing a personal story: “I, Beyonce, want to share my choreography secrets.” Or, it could be a video written in the form of a testimonial: “This book changed my life.”

Otherwise- give the second or third person a try, and see how it feels.

Second Person

“When you walk into a CrossFit gym, what’s the first smell you notice?”

The majority of explainer animations work best when written in second person. Why? Because – to be candid – your audience cares more about themselves than about you. That’s why, usually, videos are more effective if they’re the main character.

It’s not just about changing pronouns- it’s the active process of getting out of your head and into theirs. You can talk about the same information, but pivot to their perspective.

Why should they care? ← Start there.

Third Person

“Nineteenth century dentists argued over the efficacy of brushing teeth with sugar.”

The third person – the disembodied, omnipresent narrator –  can take on a particular sense of impartial authority. It’s how news articles are typically written. Does this perspective lend credibility? Maybe.

Are you at a greater risk for putting someone to sleep? Yes.

Should you use it for an explainer video? It depends.

Educational videos are where this frame is most commonly used, but it’s still arguable that educational videos rooted in the audience’s perspective are going to be more engaging. So use the third person when you must don your impartial truth-telling cloak… but again… people care more about themselves than just about anything else.

How does this all apply to making your particular animation as effective as possible? Give a call and let’s talk it over.

 

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