Maintaining a Consistent Point of View

Download Free PDF Worksheet

The worksheet explains how writers deviate from the point of view they establish at the begining of an essay. It also explains common errors of shifts in point of view, primarily by shifting the use of pronous. This problem may also be called a pronoun shift. Exercises give students the opportunity of rewriting complete sentences that correct for shifts in point of view.

Worksheet 1, Consistent Point of View (Avoid Pronoun Shifts), 8 Exercises
Worksheet 2, Consistent Point of View (Avoid Pronoun Shifts), 14 Exercises

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The Problem

When we write quickly, we sometimes change the point of view of a sentence or a paragraph by switching from one pronoun perspective to another. This switch in perspective is called a switch in point of view or a pronoun shift. For a polished, professional writing style in English, it is important that we maintain the point of view that we establish.

Let us take, for example, the first sentence in this paragraph. We could easily have written, "When we write quickly, you sometimes change the point of view of a sentence or paragraph." In this sentence, we started with the pronoun "we," which is 1st person plural, and we switched to "you," which is second person (singular or plural).

This switch detracts from our writing style. Once we establish a point of view through the use of a pronoun, we should maintain that perspective, unless we have good reason to switch it.

Examples of Pronoun Shifts

  • As we rode into town, you could hear the silence of the frightened residents.
  • When I listened to Bach, you could almost feel a mathematical rhythm taking over your thoughts.
  • If we did not text while we drove, you would not have as many accidents as there are.
These three sentences exhibit a shift in perspective. The point of view changes because the use of pronouns changes. In the first sentence, we start with the pronoun "we" (first person) and shift to the pronoun "you" (second person). This shift hurts our writing style.

The Solution (Correcting Pronoun Shifts)

We can maintain a consistent point of view and avoid shifts in pronouns in two ways.

  1. Use the same pronoun in our sentences.
  2. A better solution is to use a noun in the first part of the sentence. In this manner, the pronoun use in the second part becomes almost obvious.

Correct Examples

  • Good: As we rode into town, we could hear the silence of the frightened residents.

    Better: As the soldiers rode into town, they could hear the silence of the frightened residents.

  • Good (and Better): When I listened to Bach, I could almost feel a mathematical rhythm taking over my thoughts.

    When we use the pronoun "I" (first person) we really cannot use a noun. Referring to ourselves in the third person sounds odd.

  • Good: If we did not text while we drove, we would not have as many accidents as we have.

    Better: If drivers did not text while they drove, fewer accidents would occur.

    Sometimes we must revise the sentence to avoid a shift in pronoun. Sometimes this revision makes the sentence shorter, better, and clearer.

This page covers maintaining a consistent point of view in sentences. To do so, we must maintain the perspective we establish in the beginning. Take a look through this page. With the exception of this sentence, you will notice a "we" (first person plural) perspective. Remember this: To improve our writing style in English, we must maintain a consistent point of view in our sentences and throughout the entire paragraph or essay.

Worksheet 1, 8 Exercises

Rewrite each sentence to eliminate any mixed point of view.

  1. The author suggests that the truth is sometimes painful, but telling the truth is better than living a life being someone you are not.
  2. When Margo married a widower her life became complicated because you can’t help but feel jealous about a deceased wife.
  3. Although it may be painful for a parent not to be your child’s role model, Patrice Grant doesn’t have the right to be angry with her son’s choice.
  4. As the soldiers marched away from the battleground, you felt as if the war may finally be over.
  5. A softball player who wants to develop her pitching form knows you will develop more skills at a sleep away camp.
  6. Students underestimate the amount of time required to study nursing because you simply cannot pass your tests without extensive study and practical experience.
  7. Regardless of how much teachers try, you cannot make sure that students attend every class.
  8. When I ran, you would get cramps.

Worksheet 2, 14 Exercises

Rewrite each sentence to eliminate any mixed point of view.

  1. When children play violent video games, they start acting like the characters, and you sometimes cross the line and disrespect your parents.
  2. As thousands of riotous youth looted stores in London, you sensed that the conservative government would respond vigorously.
  3. Although I enjoy fishing from a pier, you sometimes wonder what fishing from a boat in the ocean would be like.
  4. When a customer is treated courteously, they are more likely to return.
  5. I like competing in triathlons because you have the opportunity to train in three different sports.
  6. As more and more employees were rehired, you felt that management had really tried to address the company's problems.
  7. Marginalized groups often form close-knit communities, so you tend to socialize and shop among members of your group.
  8. Registered users must log in using their password, and you will be charged on a per-use basis.
  9. Henry's group practiced life-saving methods in the open ocean; you were expected to swim one hundred yards and return to the boat.
  10. In Cancun, tourists experience sandy beaches and luxurious resorts, but you also see people living in shacks with dirt floors and no running water.
  11. Visitors to the Magic Kingdom can arrive by ferry or monorail, and you can see Cinderella's castle in the distance.
  12. After the football team completes two-a-day summer practices, school begins, and you will have only one practice session after daily study hall.
  13. Myrna remembered that patrons could reenter the museum if you still had the ticket stub.
  14. When fans arrive late to a concert, you must wait for a pause in the performance to be seated.

Links for Avoiding Shifts in Point of View or Pronoun Shifts in Your Writing

These links discuss the problem of shifts in point of view and shifts in pronoun. They also offer suggestions for avoiding these problems.

  • English Software

    It's a commercial site, and it tries to sell you a product. However, the short 7-paragraph explanation on keeping a consistent point of view is useful.

  • Big Dog's Grammar

    The page has two sections. Scroll down to the section on "Pronouns." It's good. The site also provides an short online quiz.

  • Carson-Newman College: Pronoun Shifts

    You get one page of clear explanations and examples in pronoun shifts. The page also includes a nice injunction against using the pronoun "one," as in "One must agree that this usage sounds stuffy."