Today we’re looking at personal pronouns – what are they, what impression do they give your website visitors, and which ones should you use, when? How can you use different pronouns to make your calls to action more compelling?
What are Personal Pronouns?
Personal pronouns are how we talk to or about different people. For example, I, you, he, she, it we, they, me, him, her, us and them are all personal pronouns. The type of narrative voice you use in your writing depends on which pronouns you are using, and the narrative voice and pronouns can all have an effect on how your visitors feel when they read the copy on your website.
What are First, Second and Third Person Narrative?
When you’re writing copy for your website, you can do so using first, second or third person narrative. Here’s a quick explanation of each one and the pronouns they use:
- First person narrative is used when you’re speaking about yourself using pronouns such as I, me, my, we, us, our and so on.
- “I have been a fashion blogger for five years…”
- “We offer eighteen different types of cookies…”
- “Here are three benefits of learning to become a trapeze artist with us…”
- Second person narrative speaks directly to the reader, addressing them with the pronoun “you”.
- “You will love my weekly fashion tips!”
- “You’ll find your new favourite milkshake flavour at our store!”
- “Your free trapeze taster session is waiting!”
- Third person narrative uses pronouns such as he, him, his, himself, she, her hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, and themselves.
- “Sally Longjohns is a fashion designer, garment guru and Instagram influencer based in LA.”
- “The Biscuit Base is an independent milkshake and cookie bar dedicated to bringing you the best bites in Brighton.”
- “Come down to Clive’s Circus, where he will train you in five easy-trapezey sessions.”
When is Each Narrative Voice Used?
The context you are writing in, what you are writing about and what you would like your readers to do will all influence whether you write in first, second or third person narrative on your website. First person narrative may find a home on your About Us or Meet the Team page, for example. This copy could also be written in third person, but it may not have such a personal touch. Compare “Sally is a fashion blogger” to “I am a fashion blogger” – it’s Sally’s blog, so shouldn’t she be the one who is speaking? Third person works better if you are talking about a company as a whole, and helps with SEO around your brand keywords, too – “The Biscuit Base team bakes gorgeous cookies with gooey centres”. User-generated content such as testimonials will naturally refer to your company in the third person because it is written by someone else. Second person is often used in calls to action, e.g. “Reserve Your Place” or “Register Your Interest”.
Here are five ideas for experimenting with different narrative voices and pronouns on your website and in your calls to action:
1. Address Your Customers Directly
Let’s think about how you’re addressing your customers. Ideally, you’re speaking to them, rather than about them. “At Clive’s Circus, we want each of our customers to feel entertained and excited” sounds like you’re talking about your customers, and not to the potential customer who is reading. Try “At Clive’s Circus, we want to entertain and excite you and your family”. This is more direct and intimate, and makes the reader feel involved.
2. Focus on the Reader, Not Your Business
When you initially start thinking about how to sell your products or services on your website, you may be inclined to say “We have experience in...”, “Our services are…” and so on. But too much of this leads to not enough focus on the reader. This is your potential customer, so you need to tell them not so much about yourself, but about how they will benefit from your services. Why should they buy from you? Empathise with the problems that they have and show how you can solve them. Shift the focus from what you are like, and onto what the user needs. This often involves moving from third person to second person narrative. For example, “We know you don’t have time to waste trying to use complex accounting software. That’s why...”
3. Give the Reader Control with First Person Calls to Action
There is also something to be said for writing in first person, from the point of view of the user. Changing your language can put the user in control of the transaction. Here are some examples of first person calls to action:
- Send me the newsletter
- Choose my beanbag chair
- Customise my iPad case
- Start planning my holiday
- Find my dream gaming PC
These make it sound like the user is taking action themselves rather than following orders such as “Sign up” or “Add to basket”. They also work well because they are unexpected. Calls to action like “Buy now” or “Register” are so commonplace that mixing things up a little might make the user more likely to click.
4. Establish Ownership with Second Person Pronouns
Let’s switch our examples around. Here are some examples of calls to action that use second person pronouns to establish ownership at early stages of the buying or converting process:
- Where should we send your newsletter?
- Choose a colour for your beanbag chair
- Customise your iPad case
- Where do you want to go?
- Your dream gaming PC is waiting
Here, the use of second person pronouns assumes that the reader is definitely going to purchase the product. It adds a touch of confidence to the copy. But most of all, it makes the reader feel like they are closer to owning the product. It’s like saying “It’s a given that you’re going to sign up to the newsletter. It’s officially yours now. Where would you like us to send it?”
5. Test Your Copy
Torn between pronouns? Try testing your copy to see which calls to action work best. You could vary the language on your website, do some A/B testing using different narratives in your emails, or write a few different PPC ads to see which variants deliver the most engagement and conversions for your business.
If you would like some help with conversion rate optimisation, get in touch with SilverDisc. We can help you to improve your marketing copy and calls to action, so that you can increase your conversions and reach your business goals.