Show Readers Their Value


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

Show Readers Their Value

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

— Booker T. Washington

Sometimes, simple shifts in word choice make all the difference in the tone of your writing. One area to check is your choice of pronouns. As you revise your work, compare how often you use "I," "me," "my," and "mine" versus "you," "your," and "yours." 

By choosing reader-focused pronouns, you show readers you value their needs and contributions. 

How can I check my use of pronouns?

Review your document and perform these pronoun checks:

  1. Mark each time you use "I," "me," "my," and "mine."
  2. I need help with my HTML coding and the overall design on my website.

  3. Mark each time you use "you," "your," and "yours."
  4. Your expertise with HTML coding and your excellent design sense are just what this website needs.

The two examples say the same thing, but the first focuses on the writer, and the second on the reader. The first is not persuasive while the second is.

You should also check how you use "we" in your message.

How can I check "we"?

Review your document and perform these pronoun checks:

  1. Mark each time you use "we," "us," "our," and "ours."
  2. We based our HTML coding on your previous page builds.

  3. In each case, determine whether you are using the pronoun to include or exclude the reader.

    Together, we can create clean and effective web pages. (Includes reader)
    We need your help to succeed on our project. (Excludes reader)

When "we," "us," and "our" include the reader, they create a strong sense of shared purpose and teamwork. When they exclude the reader, the text is too focused on the writer's desires and concerns.

Editor's Tip: Avoid using "you," "your," and "yours" in negative situations, which can sound accusatory. If you must use a pronoun in a negative situation, use "we," "us," "our," or "ours" inclusively to promote teamwork.


Play the Editor!

Rework the following paragraph to focus on the reader and use "we" inclusively. Scroll to the bottom to see one possible revision. 

We provide more value and better service than any of our competitors. As to value, we offer 10 percent discounts of purchases over $500 on all of our quality computer parts. As to service, our 5-star customer satisfaction rating shows how seriously we take our mission. We succeed because we make sure that you succeed.


Get More Support

Refer to the Write for Business Guide, Courses, and eTips for more tips with reader-focused writing.


Editor’s Recommendation

The "Play the Editor! " text uses "we" or "our " nine times, each of them excluding the reader, and mentions "you" just once. Here's a reworking that shifts the focus to the reader: 

You demand value and expect service, and you'll receive both with Rankin Technologies. As to value, you'll get a 10 percent discount on purchases over $500 on every quality computer part you buy. As to service, you'll get Rankin's 5-star customer support. We work together to find the best hardware solutions for any application at any budget. We succeed as a team!