Whether you are rewriting your website, drafting your next blog, or posting on social media, choosing the right pronouns can be surprisingly complicated. Deciding whether to use “I” “we” or “they” can set the tone for all kinds of brand decisions. But which one is best for you may not be as clear as you initially suspect.
Who knew that pronouns could grind your marketing efforts to a halt? The seemingly simple choice between first or third person, and singular or plural, invokes far more psychological and sociological assumptions than most people understand. If you are stuck choosing between “us” and “them”, here are a few things to consider.
First Person or Third Person Pronouns
Deciding between the first person “we” and third person “they” depends on where you are writing. On your website, third person can imply professionalism and formality. Particularly in more conservative industries like law, using “they” can create a desirable separation between the website and the licensed professionals.
First person, on the other hand, can make your company seem approachable and relatable. If your brand relies on personalized service and a strong personal connection, first person can help potential customers develop that link right off the bat.
This is a branding decision that should be made with care. Often, you will need to balance these interests while still presenting a unified front. Rather than going with your gut, sit down with your marketing experts and weigh the pros and cons of first versus third person pronouns.
Your website is one thing, social media is another. Facebook and Twitter are at their core places where people connect with people, not brands. Using third person pronouns in your tweets can make it harder for your customers to relate to you, and may make your social media campaign seem inauthentic. Unless there is a good reason, you probably will want to use first person pronouns in your social media posts.
Singular “I” or Plural “We”
Deciding on first person pronouns doesn’t end the debate, though. When you are blogging or engaging with followers on social media, you need to decide between the singular “I” and plural “we”. Just like question of the “us” versus “them”, there is no one clear right answer.
Using “I” you put yourself on a first-name basis with your clients. That close connection promises truth and authenticity, which can appeal to some potential customers. But it can also make your company seem small. If all of your blogs and social media posts use “I” it can make it seem like you are a one-person show. That can make some people worried that you won’t have the resources to fix their problem. If you are speaking with authority, referencing “I” can also sometimes undercut your credibility, making your statements seem like “just one person’s opinion.”
“We” comes with its own challenges. It can make you seem larger, more able to respond to a person’s needs, and more of an authority. But it also can seem authoritarian and distant, particularly on social media. The corporate “we” can get in the way of your efforts to connect with clients on a personal level.
Decisions about pronouns don’t need to be all-or-nothing. Choosing between first and third person or singular and plural pronouns will depend on the medium, and the purpose of each particular writing. This is a branding decision that should be made with care. Often, you will need to balance these interests while still presenting a unified front. Rather than going with your gut, sit down with your marketing experts and weigh the pros and cons of the pronouns, so you know when to use each one.
Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She writes blogs and web content for law firms and small businesses. If you need help creating high-quality content for your website, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.