August 23, 2008
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First, Second, or Third Person?

When planning a Web site, when is it best to use first person? When do you choose third person? Under what circumstances is it wise to directly address the reader?

I’m surprised these questions are not more widely discussed. A naive rule against direct address, for example, can easily lead to business-speak boilerplate

Notional Technologies offers world-class tax-abatement solutions and state-of-the-art consulting services to leading enterprises in aerospace, finance, and manufacturing sectors.

while direct address can lack dignity.

Got a tax problem? If it’s a really big problem, Notional Technolgies can solve it.

In a corporate blog, the trade-off between first-person singular and plural can be tricky. Plural can be pretentious, even preposterous if the writer claims to be speaking for hundreds or thousands of colleagues.

All of the 15,000 contractors working for Notional Technologies wish you a very warm and happy summer!

But singular is pretentious, too; even if you’re the CEO (or her ghost writer), it’s not all about you.

As president of Notional Air, I want to make our new night service to Poughkeepsie the most comfortable flight in the world, with cheerful crew and sparkling cabins.

I'm surprised this issue isn’t discussed more often.