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Second Person vs. Third Person in Your Business Writing

When you start a business, your plate gets piled high. Regardless of what industry you fall under, you’re much more than an owner. You handle client interaction, outreach, staffing, accounting … and the list goes on.

One position that many new business owners don’t typically think of right off the bat is copywriter. But unless you immediately outsource to a freelancer, you’re probably going to find a good chunk of your time being spent writing things such as:

  • Blogs
  • Marketing pieces (mail outs, brochures, newsletters)
  • Web content
  • Press releases

Now, business writing is handled in different ways depending on the type of piece you’re composing. And one place novices usually get things wrong is in what point of view they write in. Most specifically, they get mixed up between second and third person.

That said, I’d like clear up the mess and help you make sure you’re getting it correct. I’ll begin by defining each:

Second Person: This is the point of view you take when you are speaking directly to the reader. You address them directly as “you.” Example: You will love our product because it will save you time.

Third Person: For our purposes, we will simply define third person as when you do not refer to the reader directly. Instead of saying “you,” you speak of them as if they are not part of the conversation. Example: The buyer will love this product because he will be able to use it to save time.

Which to Use When

By nature, we tend to write in third person. That’s because it’s drilled in us all through high school and college. It’s considered a faux pas to ever address the reader in a work of academia. However, when it comes to business writing, the opposite almost always applies.

  • Blogging – Why have a business blog? Because you want to create a platform for conversation with your clients and potential clients. So in order to converse, you must engage the reader. That means using second person to speak to them directly.
  • Marketing Pieces and Web Content – The most successful marketing pieces are the ones that speak to their target market and connect with them on an emotional level. That means speaking their language. And you do that in second person.
  • Press Releases – Press releases represent the exception to the rule. Never write in second person, as they are supposed to read like unbiased news pieces. And writing in second person implies an obvious bias because you’re the speaker. Stick with third person to appear as an objective third party.

Hope that clears things up for you. Let me know if you have any questions!

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: http://www.ereleases.com/prchecklist.html

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