the internet ideas blog

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It Isn't Me, It's You!

Guest post by Carolyn Erickson

Writing for your business can be a scary proposition. And that’s understandable, since most of us learned to write by handing in our papers to be graded, critiqued, and covered in red pen by Mrs. Haversham, the 6th grade teacher.

But there’s one thing you don’t have to be afraid of: using the words “I” and “you” in your writing.

(I know you’re waiting for the lightning to strike me right now but, believe it or not, this piece of advice isn’t even controversial anymore. Of course you can find exceptions, but as is the nature of exceptions, they’re a lot scarcer than the rule.)

Writing for business is not far removed from speaking to customers, either by phone or in your store. Aim for a personable, conversational tone. Would you approach a customer and say, “If one needs help, one should query the proprietor, upon whom you are currently gazing,” or would you just ask them if they would like some help?

I found a great example of approachable writing right here on this blog. In her post, A Mini Lesson, Teajai wrote a terrific post that not only illustrates a great principle, but tells a story and gives you a glimpse into her personality.

Consider this sentence…

“Like most Mini owners, I am fanatical about all things Mini so seeing an email that had Mini gift ideas was great!”

after I’ve gussied it up in formal third-person:

“The majority of the owners of Mini Cooper automobiles would experience fervor pertaining to any item, image, or reference to such automobile. Therefore, if such an owner receives electronic correspondence purporting to have for sale products pertaining to the Mini Cooper automobile, such owner would likely hastily activate a link to the particular Web document cataloguing such products for purchase.”

Just writing that made me tired. Tell me the truth—which would you prefer to read?

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