You, a Three Letter Power-Word

You.  It is a simple pronoun comprised of three little letters, but remember Yoda’s sage advice on judging the power of people (or words) by their size.  You is the go to word for most copywriters that want to really reach their audience and win them over to your way of thinking.  Winning readers and/or viewers to your way of thinking is the goal of any copywriter, but you will first need to understand just why and how the word you is supposed to be used in this context.

Why You is a Power Word

It seems strange to suggest that a simple pronoun is a power word, but here’s the deal.  I’m not going to sugar coat it at first, so forgive me if this sounds a little harsh.  Everyone one of us, you (There’s that word!), me, and everyone around us does everything for many reasons, but the primary reason is because that we believe that the actions we take benefit us in some way.  This means even being charitable and donating a few dollars to a homeless person is really a selfish act in some tiny way, at least according to many psychologists.

Those same psychologists would suggest that people who are presented with a proposition that is beneficial without the word you and the same proposition with the word you are more likely to avail themselves of the latter.  For example:

Consumers could benefit from faster broadband connections if they download lots of video files, MP3s, play online games, and/or do online backup.  Sign up today!

Versus:

You could benefit from faster broadband connections if you download lots of video files, MP3s, play online games, and/or do online backup.  Sign up today!

If you want to sugarcoat the reasons why we do the things that we do, then you could believe that the stimuli our brains receive from any action could release guilt, address subconscious issues we are not necessarily aware of, or any number of other things.  Ultimately, we are just a touch on the selfish side as a species, and that has its ups and its downs.  You can sit and contemplate the issue for years, or you can learn how to take advantage of where this truth intersects with the English language: the word you.

When to Use You

There are times when almost no other word but you will do.  There are other times, such as the above example, when you can easily substitute the word you with other words.  There are also times when you can imply you or explicitly state it.  For example:

Be aware that watching too much television is bad for your eyes.

Versus:

You should be aware that watching too much television is bad for your eyes.

A few simple tweaks and you have gone from implying the word you to expressly stating it.  Note that implying the word you is not enough for it to have the desired effect.  On the other hand, inserting the word you into several single sentence might be overkill unless it is to build repetition and is only part of your overall piece.

At a bare minimum, the word you should appear in positive examples that highlight the virtues of whatever is being discussed and/or in comparisons, sprinkled throughout the text, in the lead, and in any call to action/request for a sale.  We are not talking about products or services that only benefited other people, right?  We are talking about things that could benefit Y-O-U!  Who needs to buy?  YOU DO!

You Stephen Colbert, You!

Your is Not as Good as You

Using your tends to be something that is fairly polarized, and can be quite negative.  If you are covering the benefits of a motor oil, you can say:

ABC motor oil is good for your car and will keep it running for a long time!

Or

You need to get ABC motor oil for your car if you want your car to run for a long time!

You could even go negative if you want (I wouldn’t) and suggest that those people who are left on the road waiting for AAA or their best friend to show up (In some cases they turn out to be one and the same…) might have been that way because they did not use ABC motor oil.  An ideal negative ending to that might be:

Do you want your choice in motor oil to strand you on the road with a dead car?  If not, you need to choose ABC motor oil.

Your Suggestions

Do you (there it is again!) know any power words you want to share?  If so, let us know in the comments section.

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Written by

Chad Weirick is a global traveler, ghostwriter, teacher, and father. His hobbies include reading, languages, mixed martial arts, photography, digital media, blogging, and spending time with his family.

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