For our first Ask Performancing feature, we have a few opinions on the Personal vs. Authoritative voice issue, which has been discussed over at the Hive.
The question is whether to use a personal voice or an authoritative voice, and in this particular case, the site in question is a community resource site that caters to higher education: College Crunch.
And so, the following were compared:
I have tried to come up with a wide range of career options that nearly anyone with any interest can take a look at.
We have selected a wide range of career options that nearly anyone with any interest can take a look at.
What are your thoughts on how the economic shift will effect higher learning? Let me know in the comments below, especially if you’ve seen other reports regarding this issue.
What are your thoughts on how the economic shift will effect higher learning? Let us know in the comments below, especially if you’ve seen other reports regarding this issue.
You may notice that the first statements come across as more conversational and informal, particularly with the use of “I” and “me,” which pertains to the author of the statement. The latter ones are more of collective, by using “We” and “us.”
While the authoritative voice does not necessarily only entail using “we” instead of “I” this is perhaps the easiest difference to spot–that is, talking as if directly conversing with your reader. This is definitely the best approach when emailing a relative, friend or colleague. When emailing on behalf of your business or company, then perhaps it’s better to write with a more formal tone, as may be required.
Some snippets from the discussion among our Hive experts.
deb_n says it depends whether one is writing web content or a blog post:
If you’re blogging and hoping to establish a community and encourage comments and discussions around your articles, I prefer [the personal] approach.
If you’re planning a more antiseptic and less community driven website, go with the stuffier more authoritative voice.
gerrybot cites the magazine approach, where the collective approach is indicative of a group mentality:
We see a lot of celeb magazines in the UK using this form, which seem a little more authoritative because you’re implying a group mentality, “We think the Sarah Connor Chronicles rocks”, which I thought carried a little more weight. Unfortunately, when occassions called for a personal tone “As a new guitarist, Led Zeppelin were a huge influence on me”, you had to switch.
But then some would prefer having a mix of the “I” and the “we” in one statement, such as hart, who thinks an author can cite the collective statement (such as a site policy or a fact), but also have a personal approach:
“We have tried to come up with a wide range of career options. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.”
In my opinion, it does depend on the purpose and the context. If what you are writing represents fact, a collective thought, or a statement by your company, team or organization, then it’s best to use a more formal voice. If you’re writing a product or service profile, then it’s best to use a formal voice. But if you’re writing an article or blog post where you want to invite reader interaction and discussion (whether through public comment threads or even email feedback forms), then it’s best to use a personal tone. This makes it easier for people to respond, as they would feel just like they’re talking back to you.
You can find more discussions like this at Performancing Hive. If you’d like to post a question, feel free to do so at the comment threads here or email us feedback at support (at) performancing.com. I also dig through the community forums and even the Hive for interesting discussions. Our first question actually came from our former editor Ryan Caldwell, as posted on the Hive.