When we write an instructional article, post, or nonfiction book, we have three ways to address our audience. The method we select will affect how we connect with our audience, influencing if they receive—or even read-our words.
Let’s consider these three styles:
Inclusive: To include our audience when we write, we pepper our words with personal pronouns, such as “we,” “us,” and “our.” We treat our readers as equals, with our words applying to them as much as to us. By its nature, inclusive writing is usually accessible and conversational. The first three paragraphs of this post use inclusive writing.
Exclusive: In contrast is exclusive writing, where you separate yourself from your readers, often using the pronouns “you” and “your,” along with “I,” “me” and “my.” I’m adopting this style in explaining exclusive writing to you. Even though it’s not my intent, do you feel like I am talking down to you? Do I come across as lecturing? If I did this for the entire post, would you have trouble reading it? Of course you would; that’s why I must stop.
Detached: Formal writing maintains a distance between writer and reader, which usually renders the piece as inaccessible. A primary characteristic is using the abstract pronoun “one.” In this manner, one avoids emotional connection. Sentences become dry and lifeless. In adopting this style, the use of the aforementioned pronouns (we, us, our, you, you’re, I, me, and my) are prohibited. Proper uses of this form include formal research, academic papers, and dissertations. Using this style in other forms of writing may indicate one is unable to connect with one’s audience or is distancing oneself due to a lack of confidence. With careful wording, one can avoid the use of “one” and remain in this mode. Detached writing has a formal construct.
Wow, those last two paragraphs were tough! I need to stop, so we can revert to normal blogging. Let’s revisit the opening sentence of this post:
- Inclusive Example: We have three ways to address our audience.
- Exclusive Example: You have three ways to address your audience.
- Detached Example: One has three ways to address one’s audience.
Although there are instances when each method is appropriate, we generally serve our audience best with the inclusive style.
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Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.