Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Is it just me, or do these sentences seem weird to you?

'Is there anything else that needs covering?'
'The development plan received 20 objections.'

Wouldn't it be more natural to write them this way?

'Is there anything else we need to cover?'
'We received 20 objections to the development plan.'

Adding humans (in those examples, we) allows us to avoid clunky, unnatural sentences.

Impersonal writing can also be nonsensical. Without humans, the first sentence suggests that topics can have needs. The second sentence is about a development plan so intelligent it can receive objections.

Sure, we say sentences like that and hardly anyone notices, but with writing, our readers expect polish. Adding humans is an easy way to add that polish, achieve more clarity and make our writing more interesting.

I like this quote from Martin Cutts editor of The Plain English Guide (Oxford University Press).

'The myth that I and we should be avoided in formal reports has crippled many writers, causing them to adopt clumsy and confusing constructions.'

I and we are only two ways of adding humans to our writing. If they're inappropriate for you, or you want some variety, try other human words: you, staff, the managers, drivers, residents, members, shareholders, the senior management team, councillors, stakeholders, subscribers, players or customers.



Interested in a workshop on business writing for your team?

About Ralph Brown

ralph brown blog3

Ralph is our founder. He has a background in psychology, television journalism and business.

Ralph's passions are positive psychology and writing. He leads workshops on both and speaks to conferences on the psychology of thriving at work.

In 2011  Professional Speakers Australia awarded him its top speaking accreditation, the CSP.

He has written six books, six e-books and more than a hundred articles on psychology and writing. International research journals have published his articles reviewing the research on resilience.

Ralph lives in rural Canterbury. He is a JP and marriage celebrant and enjoys travelling to French-speaking countries.

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