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It's not about you… a copywriting guide to writing in the second person

Why, when you’re copywriting, the ‘second person” should always come first.

In conversation, it’s natural for people to speak in the first person. And that can carry over into business, when you’re describing your products or services. But writing sales or marketing copy entirely in the first person is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Because when you’re addressing your customers, it’s not about you. It’s all about them.

In copywriting there’s a different magic word

When you’re drafting sales materials such as business websites, brochures, direct mail letters and emails, its oh-so-tempting to simply talk about what you do or what have to offer. After all, it’s the subject you’re most expert in! But in an increasingly noisy marketplace, you can’t afford to make the assumption that your reader has the time or inclination to read what you’ve got to say. It’s imperative to find a fail-safe way to grab their attention and appeal to their self interest by making believe that there’s something in it for them. And by far the simplest way to do that is by using the word ‘you’.

Using the second person changes the way you write

Something happens when you use the second person in your copy. You start to think about who you’re addressing. In fact, that uncomfortable feeling that sometimes comes with writing in the second person is often a sign that you haven’t thought hard enough about who your target audience is. And it’s essential to know as much about them as you can before you commit a word to paper. What are their desires and concerns? If you don’t know what they are, you can’t convince your reader that you know what you’re talking about, or that you’re addressing them personally. If you don’t know your target audience, you may know what the features of your product or service are, but you won’t know what the benefits are for your reader. And as every good copywriter knows, you need to spell out the benefits first.

Put the customer first

On the web and in your sales literature, you’ve got just seconds to grab your reader’s attention. Appeal to their self interest right up front by addressing them directly using the second person ‘you’, and tell them exactly how your product or service will improve their life. You can talk about features and you company’s credentials in the first person later on, once they’re hooked, as a way to confirm their decision to buy. In good copy ‘You’ always comes before ‘I’.

At Oxygen we can help you to address your target market more effectively, build brand loyalty and increase your conversion rates. Give us a call on 0845 2606 255 or call into our Devon and Somerset offices to discuss your needs. Our door is always open.

Steve Lodge :Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.

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