3rd Person Singular: Copywriting Services & the Direct Address

It's a simple principle, but often ignored: talk to your customers, not around them. Here's why the direct address is absolutely key, and why you shouldn't be afraid of it.

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Any small bags that you might have must be stowed under the seat.

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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.

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Jean Tang

Jean Tang

A champion of high-end content, Jean is a living tribute to copywriting for humans. In 2012, at a TEDx talk, she declared her now widely viewed “War Against Bland.” The visionary founder of MarketSmiths, Jean leads her growing team to captivate, inspire, and motivate readers. She has helped thousands of global clients generate revenue from words (up to 12,000% ROI), and transformed the writing of hundreds of seminar attendees at the SXSW Interactive Festival (2014 and 2015), SXSW V2V (2014), the Small Business Summit (2014, NYC), and other venues.

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