Two tiny words will help you build instant rapport with your readers: I and you.
If you’re used to writing essays for school or business reports, you’ve probably been taught to avoid writing “I”. But online, readers expect — and want — informal, conversational writing which speaks to them directly.
I’m guessing that you’d like more repeat traffic, more comments, more tweets and more subscribers. That means learning how to use “you” and “I” effectively, so that you draw readers in — rather than turning them off.
Using “You” and “Your”
If you look at recent posts on Daily Blog Tips, you’ll see that many of them include the word “You” or “Your”. They have titles like:
- How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level
- Are You Missing The TED Presentations?
Would these titles be so engaging if they didn’t use “you” and “your”?
I don’t think so — and I expect you’d agree. The “you” and “your” make the posts personal, not generic. Try working one of those words into your next blog post title — and see what happens.
The biggest mistake I see bloggers making with “you” is to make it plural. They’ll write things like:
- “Some of you may be wondering…”
- “Most of you are writers…”
- “There are hundreds of you reading this blog…”
Each reader is reading on their own. Your readers are not gathered in an auditorium, listening to you read your post out loud — so it jars them to read the plural “you”. Make your readers feel special: write as if you’re speaking to just one person.
When to avoid “you”
There’s one clear case for avoiding the word “you” — and that’s when you’re writing something negative or critical. For instance, change “You’re a chronic procrastinator” to “Some people are chronic procrastinators.”
It’s perfectly appropriate to use “I” when you’re writing about your own experiences or opinions. You might worry that too much “me me me” will bore the reader — but a well-chosen personal anecdote can bring life to a post.
You might consider sharing:
- Some of your own failures and frustrations. (“I find it hard not to procrastinate.”) This helps make the reader feel that you’re on their side.
- Your personal success story — with an emphasis on the idea that “you can do this too.”
- Brief snippets about your life. With so many blogs to choose from, readers stay engaged because they feel like they know you as a person.
Make sure you’re delivering value to the reader, too: you’re not writing a personal diary. If I’m writing a very “I”-centered post, I try to bring out clear points which apply to the reader’s life too.
When to avoid “I”
If you want to sound authoritative, too much use of phrase like “I think” or “I believe” can weaken your post. Readers know that what you’re writing is your opinion — you don’t need to keep saying so.
Over to you … do you have any experiences to share about using “I” and “you” in your posts? Have these little words helped you build engagement, or do you struggle to use them effectively?