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Basic Copywriting Rule: How to Make the “You Rule” Work for You

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

There's a basic copywriting rule that can change your content almost instantly. It all goes back to your freshman English teacher, who familiarized you with the concept of “point of view” (POV) in fiction.

She explained that a story is told from the perspective of one of the characters.

In the first person POV, a character explains his thoughts and actions in his own voice (“My hands were shaking as I reached for the phone.”)

A second person POV addresses the reader directly (“You could see my hands shaking as I put the receiver to my ear.”) The third person POV, however, allows an outsider to tell the story by looking in (“She felt her hands shaking when the phone rang.”)

The fundamental copywriting rule is directly related to point of view. Like POV, it lets you experience what the characters go through right along with them.

Good Copywriting is Vicarious, Too

Use "you" words in #copywriting to have a conversation with your reader. With Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

You can use point of view to help your reader experience your product or service through words.

Copywriters call this the copyrighting rule the “You Rule.”

That’s because a large percentage of promotional material are written in second person, speaking to the reader straightforwardly by using “you.”

For example, “By addressing you directly I’m able to let you picture yourself writing powerful copy that grabs the reader and hold his attention.”

Talking one-on-one with your reader creates a feeling of intimacy. Your copy becomes a conversation, giving the reader a feeling of back-and-forth. In other words, this copywriting rule is really just a fancy way of saying, "Write like you talk."

But the “You Rule” is not a guarantee that your copy will be effective.

Some writers use it as a crutch, rather than a tool, because they’re unaware of a few important principles.

Writing Tips For This Copywriting Rule

  • Use both you and I.
    First and second POV together create conversation. Copy is personal when it’s directed to the reader in second person (you). And the conversational exchange is complete when you write from first person (I).

  • Use more you than I.
    The reader wants to know that you’re dialoging with him. But his main concern is himself. Effective copy keeps the audience front and center. Be careful that as you share news and information about your product or organization, your copy keeps returning to how those facts affect the reader. Remember, this copywriting rule focuses on the audience - the "you." (Check out this helpful "You Test" as a self-check in your content.)

  • Use variations of you and I.
    Pronouns your, yours, me, my, mine contribute to the dialogue effect and make your copy interesting.

  • Use he, she, it and they.
    Yes, copy in third person works! Tell a story or sketch an illustration about another individual and then return to your chatty, second-person banter. For instance, “Martha couldn’t believe the difference in her appetite. In two weeks, she lost eleven pounds. The same can happen to you.”

  • Use “you” to distinguish your product’s benefits.
    Writing in second person - while only mentioning your product’s features and never talking about its advantages – is a pitfall that’s easy to fall into. For example, “Bring your 4-7 year old to our up-to-date facilities at Little Tykes Tennis Academy, where you’ll find award-winning instructors for your child,” addresses the reader in second person, but only provides facts about your service.

    Avoid this trap by making sure you address benefits along with your “you rule” writing, like this: “Help your 4-7 year old learn tennis basics and a love for the game at Little Tykes Tennis Academy, where one-on-one and team coaching in our brand-new facility means your child will have fun, improve his skills and be safe.”

Use the “You Rule” the right way, and your reader will feel like he knows you, understands your cause or service, and realizes what he stands to gain by connecting with your organization.

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