This is a guest post by author Peter Felton
Achieving middle ground in life is a tough task. With the healthy requirements of compromise, balance, and habitual-lifestyle alternations within a shared household or circle of friends and colleagues seeming more impossible than graspable in their overlapping outlooks among humanity as a kingdom, being thinly sandwiched between two meaty entities of seemingly unmovable dominance in the layers of human hierarchy causes injustice for people who feel disregarded simply due to their ill-fated falling under categories of disregarded groups in society. Every overlooked middle child, member of the struggling middle class, and medical practitioner dubbed a “mid-level provider” (to name but a few examples) can attest to this. What is more: when one is put in the position of being a middleman in terms of serving as the human thread that connects people together, in turn operating as the stabilizing rock between two harsh forces of nature, that human balancing act ends up being treated more like a tool rather than a person with thoughts and feelings who is worthy of true respect and dignity from the other two human variables present on either side of the equation.
The same situation holds true for writing. Of the three literary tenses: first person (“I, we”), second person (“you [signifying infinitives both singular and plural]”), and third person (“he/she/it/they”), the first- and third-person narratives receive the most literary airtime on paper and through social networking. This is especially true for the first-person narrative when it comes to individuals’ self-promotion online 24/7. And in terms of the third-person narrative: when the world of social media gets too political for comfort, the third-person tense makes itself heard loud and clear as the online environment quickly becomes quite tense in its subsequently divisive outlook. Key examples of standout usages of the two main pillar tenses of writing are highlighted in autobiographies and memoirs told in the first-person tense, with biographies and other works of nonfiction articulated in the third-person tense. When it comes to fiction: elements of continual conflict that make the stories and characters come alive with fire rely on the first- and third-person narratives (separately and together) to create an idea of “me/us vs. them,” in an undying effort on authors’ parts to convey conflicting feelings of tension and drama to help propel their plot and character developments further forward at all times. With the growing suspense dictating the tone of the reading and writing all the while, there really is no time left to relax and focus on the inner considerations felt by the people undergoing this rollercoaster of a lifestyle (whether fictitious or realistic in perspective).
That is where the second-person narrative comes in handy. If it were not for the second-person tense, nothing in life would have any reason, rhyme, or basic explanation for its occurrence. Of the three narratives used in writing, the second-person tense is the most philosophical and religious-spiritual in tone. It allows you to look inside yourself, soul search, and become more introspective in terms of uncovering who you really are beneath your tough outer front that you feel obligated to display in your everyday life in order to be an effective, contributive member of society. When you take a break from activities and ponder outside prospects that have been occupying your mind for quite some time, you begin to analyze their components and ask yourself questions about their presumed relevance in your life, in addition to them reflecting your interests at the time. During these moments of revelation (occasionally appearing on paper in routine private diary entries for example, albeit written in the first-person narrative in these instances), you allow yourself to become vulnerable to what- and whomever may be wallowing in your midst, in hopes that any lingering questions you have can be answered, with hindering insecurities on your part becoming squelched in the all-around thought-provoking process.
These deep factors of the second-person tense can often make its offerings both in writing and life rather dense when it comes to experiencing its literary fruits. Given the depth, directness, and personalization of the second-person tense, the urgency of polishing one’s writing mechanics on the editing forefront takes effect most prominently, since you are shaping your language to reach your audience’s innermost emotions and realizations with intended peaceful connotations and a corresponding smooth-riding train of thought. (Take for example: a church service sermon weaving all of these elements together in perfect choir harmony, annunciated unto an entire congregation in a personalized manner.)
Bearing that goal in mind, the second-person tense poses unique unwritten challenges involving looking at your writing through the lens of your audience without blinking once. As you put every new idea down on paper, you carefully examine your word choice in hopes that your dictation will make enough sense in the eyes of your readers to the point where they will naturally click with the message(s) conveyed on your end, allowing both literary parties to develop an unforeseen relationship thanks to the far-reaching lengths which you aim to allow your writing to extend. It sounds like a tall order, does it not?
Do not worry. Without knowing it, you actually already in fact get regular practice using the second-person narrative in multiple simpler methods of routine communication. These pastimes include everyday: conversations with others (whether one-to-one or in groups, in-person or online), and when sending text messages and emails (individual and group-based, respectively) to others in your circle. In a nutshell: any time you use the pronouns: you, everybody, or you all, you yourself are addressing one or more people directly and making them feel more a part of your group dynamic than ever before, with others thus gaining enthusiasm for what you have to say because they now know that what you are trying to bring forth verbally pertains to them themselves.
Alternative common usage of the second-person narrative in your writing endeavors appears when instructing others to complete a task for you or an outside party—especially when a supervisor speaks before their employees on the job. Any time a teacher gets up in front of their students to make an announcement about an element of business, housekeeping, discipline, or upcoming school-related events, that teacher exhibits the greatest usage of the second-person narrative as he/she directs 100% of their verbatim onto his/her students with the constant presence of “you” at the beginning of every bullet point sentence articulated. This strategy then gets carried over to detailed directions for homework assignments written on the board, subsequently sent through emails, and later posted online at the school’s community network for all to see and understand sooner rather than later.
When it comes to the business lives and times of all working adults: you definitely recognize the writing style of your own supervisors’ emails when you and your coworkers receive messages of immediate importance, thoroughly exhibiting the second-person narrative in a first-and-foremost mannerism. If and when any necessary/assigned calls to action on your part based on your role and rank come into play, you then return the favor to those in your surroundings by composing and sending emails of similar immediacy bearing an identical reliance on the second-person narrative to alert everybody involved in the scheme of things as to what your incentives are in the next step taken towards the desired team-oriented success. In the end, everybody is in it together!
If it were not for the second-person narrative’s eminence: learning, written and verbal communication, and academic instruction as we know it would all be far less imminent!