The Power of YOU – why you should Write Blogs (and Copy) In Second Person
What is second person voice and why should you use it for marketing communications?
Second person addresses you, the reader, directly. This is unusual for literature and can feel a bit uncomfortable to writers and your English teacher probably told you not to write in second person. This point of view, however, is a powerful way to phrase your writing and is extremely useful in business and marketing communications because it draws the reader in and helps make your writing about them.
Wait, what is voice again?
As a quick refresher first person is when you write from your perspective: I do this, I do that. Third person voice is when "he", "she" or "them" is the subject. For example, He went to the store.Second person voice is when you write about the reader. That means that I the author write about you the reader.
This blog post is in the second person; I address you throughout the post.
Most writing is in the first and third person. Your English teacher was likely very clear about the need to stay in first or third because generally, that is how people tell stories. They are always about something that happened to me or that happened to somebody else.
It is hard to write a story about you because I don't know you.
Even in business, most writing follows that structure; you might read how "we" or "they" do things.
Sometimes this becomes so complex that the writer succumbs to the ever-painful passive voice where the subject disappears entirely, and the action takes place without anybody doing anything. (Please avoid passive voice.)
So, most writing is in the first or third person, because that is what we , but this is not the write way to structure marketing communications.
When writing blogs and copy, the second person is simply more powerful. Here is why:
1. Writing in the second person brings the reader into the story.
While this feels funny in prose it is precisely what you want when writing copy: you want to connect with your audience.
Just notice the difference here: compare the statement “you want to connect with your audience” to the alternatives:
We want to connect to our audience– we don’t know each other, so this feels indirect – who exactly is we?
They want to connect with their audience– do you care about them? No, you care about you.
Business writers want to connect with their audience- this is a different third person construct, note how it makes you think about whether you are a business writer or not. Your mind works to figure out whether or not this is about you – it adds a level of complexity that is unnecessary.
Connecting with your audience is wanted– is passive, it avoids the audience altogether and makes your copy challenging to understand. (Please avoid passive voice).
2. The second person is much more personal
Rather than the anonymity of the other forms when you write in the second person the reader is the topic. Instead of the subject being you or being someone else you make your copywriting about the reader.
The personal nature of this voice is often the objection that people raise. It can feel invasive, like I the author am telling you the reader what you feel or think. Such a presence is a problem in prose, but is a benefit in copy – if someone doesn't relate to what you write, they probably won't buy from you, and you probably would rather not talk to them.
3. When you write in the second person you are writing to somebody
There is something intellectually different about writing in the second person because you have to have the person you are writing to in mind. The second person involves the audience, and ultimately I think that makes your writing more empathetic and more relevant.
4. The second person appeals to the reptilian brain
Effective marketing and communications appeal to the reptilian brain first. There are six ways to do this, but two of the most powerful are to
a. Make it about them and
b. Get emotional
For the reasons mentioned above the second person is more about them, the reader, and because of that, it is more emotional. The reptilian brain lights up immediately when it is the topic of conversation, and the second person helps you achieve that.
So, work with this style and see how it goes. Note that you don't have to be a purist about it, you will ultimately mix a bit of second and third person into your writing. Write for or to someone, write to impact their lives, so that they read what you write, nod their head and want to learn more.
That is ultimately the idea behind copy and blog writing, expand your reach and make deeper connections.