Monday, February 13, 2006

Using "you" when writing for nonlawyers

To write well for the nonlegal audience, you must use the word you. The expert, Rudolf Flesch, called it "The Indispensable You," and devoted a whole chapter to it in his book, How to Write Plain English. The more you resist you, the more stilted and stuffy your writing will become. You end up using phrases like "the holder," or the masculine pronouns "he" and "him" when you obviously intend to include women.

What's more, you focuses the reader's attention because it makes the text apply to the reader in a concrete way.

I think using "you" in consumer drafting is the single most important technique for making the text readable and effective. It has the effect of making the document speak to the reader, giving the content immediacy and concreteness. If you have to define who you is early in the document, that's fine. In my drafting courses, I always notice a marked improved in student work once they get past the fear of using you.

Excerpted from
Writing for the Legal Audience

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