Any small bags that you might have must be stowed under the seat.
The flight attendant said this, like a mantra, three more times.
It was clear that the small man speaking Punjabi or Gujurat to his six children neither heard her, nor understood. But she kept reciting (raising her voice each time) as if he would come away from these 12 words with a flawless comprehension of both English—and Delta’s rules for overhead storage.
Granted, the flight attendant wasn’t marketing or selling—not really. But addressing your subject impersonally is a thing in corporate America, in legal contracts, in instructional content. And it’s catching.
Take a return shipping instruction for an eCommerce website. It says:
- Returns will be processed within five business days.
But who is the mysterious processor of the returns? Without this, I find myself skimming for details, reading more than once, and walking away with a vague sense of disconnect.
Similarly lacking in pronouns—and speckled with disorienting passivity:
- Items must be returned within 15 days of receipt. (returned by whom? whose receipt?)
- Returns must be accompanied by the original shipping form. (how do these returns find their partner forms? is it by magic…telepathy?)
- Credit will be issued immediately.
Better: replacing the subject with a simple “we” or “you,” an “us” or “our.” That way, you inject humanity, take accountability, and ease the reading for all concerned.
In the end, the flight attendant got the man’s attention. She put her hand on one of the small bags in the overhead, looked him straight in the eye, and gently said, “Sir, these will have to go under your seat.” He nodded vigorously, unloaded his bags, and handed them one by one to his kids to stow at their feet.
The moral? Get the kind of copywriting services that look ‘em in the eye and communicate what you want—in a way that your distinctly human, definitively comprehending readers will see, read, and act on. They’ll love you for it—and every little bit helps.