Why You Should Use “You” and “I” In Your Posts
This is a guest post by Ali Luke. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.
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?
About the Author: Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach. If you’re looking to improve your writing, check out her post on 7 Habits of Serious Writers.
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15 Responses to “Why You Should Use “You” and “I” In Your Posts”
You gives it the personalization that the article is talking to an individual directly and not just the general masses. I let’s the reader know that you are putting your own experiences in the writing. So both let the reader know it’s personal and meant for them, which gets them more engaged. Great points!
English is not my first language and I never gave a thought on this “You” & “I” thing. But I find this article so convincing that I read it twice to grasp it word by word. Also, liked when you shared the tip not only for using them but also when to avoid them. Thanks.
Carolee a.ka. Blogging Biz Mom
I use them all the time…
I laughed when I read a blog post by someone that said using those words was a no-no.
Most subjects are pretty dry and boring without a bit of me & you in it 🙂
The same case is true using I and We.
In blogging many times you are a single person working on a blog but represent as “We” when talking about any blog deal.
Use “I” and “You” when talking to your readers and you can use “We” if you are really a team of bloggers working on your project and discussion anything with your clients. No need to fake as “We” when you are a single person 🙂
I couldn’t agree with you more! First, conversational tone in your writing is important. We’re not in school anymore. It’s about being social, friendly, relaxed, inviting. Second, your readers are individuals and each should be addressed as an individual. Otherwise it seems you’re talking to no one in particular, which makes it come across as less relevant.
Not sure if I’ve used “You” or “Your” enough in my titles. I love that you pointed that out. I’ll be sure to pay attention to that!
I’m all for being informal. I really dislike formal writing because it doesn’t sound human, and it bores me. Talking directly to your readers and sharing your personal experience are great for saying, “hey, I’m a human being like you!”
Excellent tips. I think that no matter how professional and expert-like you want to sound, when it comes to writing online, you should never be formal. Being informal doesn’t make you sound like you’re not genuine, or you don’t know what you’re talking about. It just sounds like the real person who wrote it. Who doesn’t want to read that?
Ali Luke – Aliventures
@Kristy – Absolutely, great summary!
@Geet – I’m glad the article helped, and thanks for reading it so carefully. As a writer, I always appreciate that. 🙂
@Carolee – I’m amazed that anyone thinks they’re a no-no. For some forms of writing “you” and “I” aren’t appropriate (e.g. rigidly academic essays, and some forms of news journalism) — but for blogging, they’re great, and like you, I use them a lot!
@Vijay – I think that’s a fantastic additional tip. It’s one that I’d not thought about much until I heard Darren Rowse talk about it at BlogWorld last year, and that really made me think about using “we” more often. I make a real effort to phrase things as “we” in my ecourses, to make members feel like they’re part of a supportive group.
@Deb – Thanks! And yes, it’s absolutely about creating that friendly and open atmosphere for readers — and also talking in a personal, one-to-one way. Good luck with your titles! 🙂
Great! I’m always using the word “you”. And the phrase “some of you “. after reading this article I understand what’s the wrong with “some of you” phrase. I’m straightly agree to this article. Thanks for sharing this important fact with me and others. Anyway my future posts will not be present that phrase “some of you” 🙂 🙂
Justin | Mazzastick
I use I all of the time. Also you and your. I write like I am having a one on one conversation while talking to a friend.
Alan @ Work From Home
Excellent advice, Ali. Writing in a personable and engaging manner will definitely draw more response from readers. I try to incorporate “you” and “I” into my posts as much as possible.
HP van Duuren
Thanks for – Your – Post,
– You – are totally right, I learned Not to use “I”, I learned that people only will be interested in the Information you have to share, and that they will not be interested in ME, unless I happen to be a celebrity. (BTW I have worked in the Entertainment business, and do have some comments placed on Famous Blogger :))
I do think that using the word – You – has the advantage that it forces you to ‘walk in the shoes’ of who you are writing for. Only I never really realised that using the word – You – Plural can really feel very un-personal (maybe even degrading) thanks for pointing that out, I don’t know if I ever do that or done that, but it’s good to keep this in mind and watch out for it.
Also thanks for showing what strengths there can be in using the word “I”, that it can have it’s uses. Funny that you mention using these words “I” and “You” in this post, since I recently ordered a book titled:
BTW it’s a book from a very Successful Entrepreneur, you probably will find a review of this book on my blog soon.
All the Best,
To YOUR – Blogging – Inspiration,
Mihai @ Freshome
“Make your readers feel special: write as if youâ€™re speaking to just one person.” – Love this part, I’m always using you at plural.
When I recently started my own blog after spending most of my time creating niche sites, I felt like I was using the I-word too much of the time. Then I struggled just how to word a sentence when actually talking about my daily activities and progress online. Probably more time than I needed to. Trying to get the focus off me and onto the reader can be a challenge at times.
This was a great post and one I’ll definitely read again. Gave me a few ideas – thanks!
Using You and I can create friendly atmosphere on the blog, generally it’s a good idea, in past I also made mistakes like writing post for auditorium 🙂 really nice tips Ali worth to bookmark!
Ali Luke – Aliventures
@HP – That’s a great point that “you” helps you put yourself in the place of the person reading. I think empathy is a very important skill for bloggers to learn!
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