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Modes of Narration

The mode of narration refers to how a writer describes the plot and action or otherwise conveys information to the reader. The most common types of narrative modes are first-person, second-person, and third-person. Writers should be aware of the narrative mode they are employing and remain consistent throughout the text. Sibia Proofreading offers some basic information below regarding each type of narrative method.

First-Person Narrative
The first-person narrative is in effect when the narrator is placed directly within the story and refers to himself or herself as “I” (or, as in Ayn Rand’s Anthem, as “we”). The first-person is used frequently in fiction writing, as it also allows the author to reveal the narrator’s inner thoughts to the reader, and in memoirs and autobiographies. In academic writing, however, the first-person narrative should be used sparingly and only when necessary (for example, to avoid overusing the passive voice).

Second-Person Narrative
This mode of narration is arguably the least commonly used in most types of writing. In second-person narrative, one character is referred to as “you.” As a result, this draws the reader into the text as one of the characters. Unless otherwise instructed, second-person narrative is most likely not appropriate in academic documents.

Third-Person Narrative
Unlike the above, the third-person narrative mode is perhaps the most common narrative technique, in which the narrator refers to all characters as “he,” “she” or “they,” and so on. An omniscient narrator in this narrative style can express the inner thoughts and actions of all characters equally. On the other hand, a limited narrator conveys such information pertaining only to one character; the narrator does not “know” what this main character does not “know” either.

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