English 306

Van Noy


You-attitude Principles and Techniques


The “you-attitude,” a writing style and a philosophy, places the reader’s interests foremost in your writing.  It is based on the principle that the readers are more concerned about their own needs than they are about yours.  Rely on the following you-attitude principles:


·         Look at situations from the reader’s perspective

·         Emphasize what the reader wants to know

·         Respect the reader’s intelligence

·         Protect the reader’s ego


Example:           We must receive your receipt with the merchandise before we can process your refund.

Please enclose the sales receipt with the merchandise, so that we can process your refund promptly. 

So you can receive your refund promptly, please enclose the receipt with the merchandise. 


You attitude principles involve more than using you and your; it means seeing from the reader’s viewpoint and seeing reader benefits, and writing accordingly.


To apply the you-attitude, use the following techniques:


1.       Write with a specific purpose in mind, but focus not on what you will gain but on what the reader receives, wants, or can do.  Not "We are shipping your order . . . " but "The pair of shoes you ordered . . ."


2.       Refer to the reader’s request or order specifically.  Not "your order" but the "desk chair you ordered."


3.       Anticipate, but don’t presume to know how a reader will react or feel.  Not "You'll be happy to know . . . " but just make the direct statement.


4.       When writing to a person, highlight them (“you”) rather than the “I” or “we.”  In other words, choose the second-person point of view over first or third.  


5.       Conversely, in negative situations, avoid the word “you.”  Protect the reader’s ego by using more impersonal expressions and passive verbs to avoid assigning blame. You made no allowance for inflation in your estimate. No estimate for inflation has been made in this estimate (passive). This estimate makes no allowance for inflation (impersonal).


6.       Emphasize the positive by replacing words that contain negative connotations or denotations.  "Not we have failed to take inventory" but "We haven't yet finished taking inventory."


7.       Make information accessible: organize and format more, according to established conventions; include clear topic sentences in all paragraphs; and for long documents, use headings to separate sections.


8.       Write clearly and briefly: avoid jargon, inflated vocabulary, wordiness, and unnecessary information.


9.       Don’t hope your reader infers correctly.  Explain explicitly the significance and/or relevance or your information. 


*from Business and Administrative Communication, Kitty O. Locker.