The Write Stuff March 2016 Volume 12 Issue 3

Let’s Get Personal

I often have to remind clients that even though they hope to reach many people with their written messages, reading is a one-on-one activity. Thus, it makes sense to personalize your copy to make it seem like you are speaking to each person who looks at it, rather than a large group. Here are a few examples:

  • When sending a letter or email, never start the first line like this: “I hope all of you are having a wonderful day.” Instead, write this: “I hope you are having a wonderful day.” By eliminating “all of,” you’ve easily switched the focus from a group to an individual.
  • Think carefully about whether to use “you” or “client” in your website copy. Sometimes “client” is appropriate: “Our clients love our products.” But, in copy that’s geared toward getting someone to act, “you” will always be better. For instance, instead of “Our clients benefit from…” write, “You’ll benefit from…”
  • Also give plenty of thought to whether “we” or “you” is appropriate. Use “we” when writing something directed to an entire audience: “We’re going to start with chapter 1.” But, “you” is better if you want to focus on individual readers, e.g., “You will learn how to make your dreams come true” is better than, “We will learn how to make our dreams come true.”

The difference may seem subtle — and it is — but it will make a big difference to your readers. Failing to write in a personal way is almost like addressing a direct mail piece to “occupant”; you clearly want the message to be delivered, but you’ve given the impression that you don’t care who receives it.

It’s my pleasure to be serving as a volunteer writer for the San Diego American Marketing Association’s 18th annual Cause Conference, which will take place May 18-20. At this exciting event, you can discover how successful brands and nonprofits are connecting with and engaging today’s purpose-driven, socially conscious consumers and employees. You’ll learn the latest in cause marketing, purpose-driven branding, employee engagement, and social impact — gathering the insights, tools, and connections you need to accelerate your own purpose revolution. Get more details and save your place at

Is or Are?
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that some rules of English don’t make a lot of sense. It would seem like choosing “is” or “are” would merely be a case of using “is” with words that are singular and “are” with plural words. Yes — and no. For words like “staff,” “team” and “group,” all singular but describing more than one person, the singular “is” is correct. “Our staff is…” “Our team is…” “Our group is…” But, what about the word “people,” which seems to fit in that same category (a singular word describing more than one person)? The plural “are” is correct. Only a poorly educated person would say “people is…”
Published On: May 25th, 2017 / Categories: 2016 /

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