Pssst… you.

Yes, you. Come here for a moment.

Can I tell you a secret?

In a recent blog post, we looked at one of the key principles for plain English – using short sentences.

Today, we’re looking at a second technique.

It’s not complicated and it’s not difficult.

Which is why it’s even more baffling that so much marketing completely misses it.

And here it is. Here’s the (not so secret) secret I promised you.

If you want to engage your reader, talk to them directly.

Use personal pronouns. Make an effort to address your reader personally. Use ‘you’ and ‘your’ rather than words that create distance between you and your reader.

They work, because they speak directly to your reader.

And even if a million people read your stuff, in the mind of your reader it’s always just a single person who’s reading it – them. Right there, right then. In that moment, your reader is an audience of one listening to your words.

The power of personal pronouns

In relatively sedate terms, consider this sentence:

A purchaser can pay by credit card or cash.

Don’t you think it’s so much better like this?

You can pay by credit card or cash.

In more lively material, take this quote from Donald Trump’s election campaign. It contains a whopping 29 personal pronouns in just 158 words.

“You’re going to be so proud of your country if I get in. You’re going to be so proud of your President, and I don’t care about that. But you’re going to be so proud of your country because we’re going to turn it around and we’re going to start winning again. We’re gonna win so much. We’re gonna win at every level. We’re gonna win economically, we’re gonna win with the economy, we’re gonna win with military, we’re gonna win with healthcare and for our veterans, we’re gonna win with every single facet. We’re gonna win so much, you may even get tired of winning and you’ll say ‘please, please, it’s too much winning, we can’t take it anymore, Mr President, it’s too much’. And I’ll say, ‘no it isn’t, we have to keep winning, we have to win more, we’re gonna win more, I love you Albany, get out and vote, you will be so happy’.”


Pretty direct, huh? Love him or loathe him, it certainly worked for The Donald. So try it for yourself.

Further reading:

The Wordsworks Guide to Plain English (Part One) – Don’t Bang On