When I edit a client’s website, the first thing I look at is tone. If the content makes the reader feel passive, powerless, or bored, I spice it up. Sometimes spicing it up involves adding more substantive, useful information. But, oddly, often all it requires is changing a few words. This has become so instinctive for me that I don’t often analyze how I’m doing it.
Recently a woman whose website I was editing asked how she could write copy that wouldn’t need to be edited and recast. This forced me to look at exactly what I was doing to enliven her copy. Here’s what I discovered:
Example: “We have arranged for rapid check-in.” becomes “You’ll enjoy rapid check-in when you arrive.”
The cold, hard, fact is that the reader just doesn’t care; the reader wants to know what’s in it for him or her. Organizations like Amazon.com recognize that. They don’t tell you how they’ve been working their tails off to make the site convenient for you. They tell you about all the things you can now do with their site.
Example: “We have chosen iPad photography as the topic for the next meeting.” focuses on the exclusive little group making decisions. It could be recast to use a genuine, inclusive “we”: “We’ll be discussing iPad photography.” Even better, it could focus on the website visitor: “Bring your experiences and questions about iPad photography to the next meeting.”
My client recognized the change of tone that resulted, and said she was going to give it a try.
What do you think? Does shifting from the organizational “we” to a customer-focused “you” make a significant difference? Are there downsides to it?