Section 6.8

Superstitious Avoidance of "I" and "You"

In some types of business documents — quarterly reports, for example — there is little room for the personal pronouns I and you. Many businesspeople avoid them even in cases that may call for them, though, such as email and other business correspondence. This personal pronoun phobia arises out of concerns that I and you sound chatty, or that they may direct attention away from the subject and towards the reader and/or writer. Judicious use of these pronouns, however, can work perfectly well and can in fact even be an elegant, courteous way to acknowledge the relationship between you and your reader.

In addition, struggling to avoid these words at all costs sometimes results in awkward, unwieldy constructions. For instance, some newspaper reporters have developed stylistic idiosyncrasies in order to avoid I, as well as the object form me, in their articles. Hence, in the middle of a profile of an astronomer named Dr. Mary Roberts, you might stumble across a sentence such as:

Dr. Roberts handed a reporter a phone.

The mystery reporter is, of course, the journalist, who doesn’t want to write, Dr. Roberts handed me a phone. However, the wording can be confusing to the reader. One of the highest priorities in business writing is clarity, so anything that interferes with that — such as syntactical contortions to avoid I or you — has no place in the business world.

Therefore, where it seems appropriate and sounds good, go ahead and refer to yourself and/or to your reader with a personal pronoun.