Hey you. Do you write for the second person?

This article is going to use the word you a lot. Apologies, but that’s what this whole piece is about – writing for the second person, instead of third parties like “one” or “many people”. How do you address your reader?

For me, it’s more relaxed, easier and more succinct to write the way I speak. Call me young-fashioned, but I don’t refer to people as “one” or say things like “would Sir like a cup of tea?” If I’m addressing you, then you are you.

Why, then, should we revert to the third person when we write, like we’re talking about some mysterious other who is out of the room? As you sit reading this (not much more to go, I promise), I bet there isn’t a group of people around you all neatly fitting into some demographic.

Reading is a personal thing. You do it alone, therefore it’s better, in my opinion, for writing to be as conversational and personal as possible.

This may all sound obvious but take a look at the copy and articles you write on your website. How do you address your readers? Do you employ consistency in the way you write?

A slide from Henneke Duistermat's presentation.
Advice from Henneke Duistermaat.

In her SlideShare called 17 Copywriting Dos and Don’ts, Henneke Duistermaat says, “Never address your reader as part of a crowd. Because we’re individuals.”

The “you” approach is more important when you consider that your readers might be potential customers. They are more likely to consider buying if you address them directly instead of conspiring with them in a conversation about someone else. “What we like to do for our customers” is not as powerful as “what we’ll do for you”.

Let me know what you think.

Further reading


Steve Masters profile picture
Steve Masters

Steve (RIP) was Services Director for Vertical Leap. He started professional life as a magazine journalist, working on music magazines and women's titles before becoming a web editor in 1997, then joining MSN to work purely in online publishing. Since 1999 he has worked for and consulted to a broad range of businesses about their digital marketing.

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