If you’re a designer or have some kind of business website, you may have found yourself in this position.
Creative Whim is a one-woman gig. Except when I partner up with people to code a few pre-made themes, it’s all me. It’s my website, my custom design services, my portfolio. And yet, while writing the copy for this website, I constantly found myself using the words “we”, “us”, and “our”. For example, for a while I had one sentence that said:
See why over 1,500 clients love our products
And this is just one example. Until I went through and changed it all, these plural pronouns were scattered throughout the entire site.
WHY!?!?! Why did I feel the need to use plural pronouns even though there’s only one of me? Is it because “our” sounds more professional?
After a few weeks or months of using plural, I woke up one day and saw the light. I just looked at my website and thought, “Who is ‘we’? What the hell did I write? I’m only one person!”
I think we’re taught that plural sounds more professional, maybe because it sounds like a company full of people (but why do we not treat an individual the same way?). Plus, we’re told not to use “I” all the time, and that is so counter productive because how can we take credit for how awesome we are if we can’t say “I” did that? So right on, own it girl!
That’s so interesting! I personally think it has more to do with gender norms. I realize that I will be using some broad generalizations to talk about gender, but bear with me here.
I think that men have been conditioned to take credit and be more prideful of their work. So I believe that guys who run a solo business are more likely to use singular pronouns. Women, on the other hand, are traditionally conditioned to have a more group mentality and to accept credit as a group. At least that’s what I have learned and noticed throughout my life.
I think this is a fascinating response, and I tend to agree with it. I notice at work I use often use “we”, even when talking about MY accomplishments. None of my male colleagues do this; they loooove to talk about their accomplishments using first person singular.
We women are far too modest!!
I think it’s cause it sounds more professional and maybe saying something like see why they like MY products sounds a little bit..high and mighty..lol.
You’re totally right! Saying “us/we/our” sounds a lot more modest. I’m not usually one to say MY PRODUCTS ROCK! TAKE A LOOK! So maybe using “our” makes it easier lol.
But on the other hand, sometimes people phrase it so that the plural sounds braggy. You could always be like “See why they love [insert business name]’s products:” I think I might prefer that, because I think a lot of solopreneurs try to make themselves sound bigger than they are, and I don’t think it has they effect they think it does.
That’s true. I guess I’d just feel weird referring to my business in the third person like that. I think I prefer the more personal approach and sticking with “I/my”.
I work with quite a few small businesses, and whether one person, five, or twenty – we always use plural to describe the business. Creates a sense of teamwork and together-ness, and I suppose encourages customers to believe you’re bigger than a one man band – even though you aren’t and there’s nothing wrong with that, it can be a negative perception rather than a positive one, or so I’ve been told.
That is true. I guess it depends on what your goals and priorities are. I don’t need people to believe that I’m bigger than one person, especially when I run a services business where they’d only be dealing with me anyway. I think for my purposes, the more personal, singular approach works well. 🙂 I wouldn’t want people to think they’re hiring a team of designers when they’re “only” getting one.
I so agree with you Ashley. To me, there is something inherently wrong with trying to give the illusion that we’re “more” than what we are. If we are not a “team” than its being disingenuous to try to project this image onto others. A lie by any other name is still deception, no? I also don’t buy the rationale that “our” sounds more professional. To me, that’s like rationalizing that certain foods should only be eaten in the morning because because some random guy decided a thousand years ago to designate them as “breakfast” food. Our bodies make no such distinction and actually most “breakfast” foods are lighter which nutritionists state is better on the digestion to be consumed at night. Bear with me, lol . . . I’m not on a rant . . . my point is that reality should be our truth not popular myth. To me, this isn’t about bragging or being modest but about honest representation. If you don’t want to sound too “braggy” . . . than don’t brag. It’s still bragging when you use a plural! Our professionalism will standout through our marketing content, portfolios, customer reviews, blog. etc. . . . even though we are but one person. There’s no need to use illusion if we offer quality service and we believe that service will truly benefit our targeted, ideal client. <3
I’ve seen one person blogs use we/our and it confuses me. ‘Request a review from us’ ‘see our reviews’ and I wonder ‘who is we???’
But for businesses, I think it does make sense to use we/our/etc. It does sound a more professional and less gloaty if that makes sense. I don’t think it’s a must though. Whatever works 🙂
Hah, that is odd to talk about a blog that way. Maybe they see their blog as more of a business so that’s why they went with “us/our”. Who knows!
I think it’s kind of ingrained in us to use plural pronouns, but not because it sounds less braggy when promoting a product. Businesses in general tend to be more than one person, so I think it’s become the norm or default for business to use we/our/us even when it’s one person just because it’s what’s we’re use to. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s just what I noticed.
Yeah that does make sense.
Most businesses use plural pronouns. Maybe you got so used to it and did it unknowingly? 🙂
It might be because we are taught in school that using the “we” is the “right / professional” way to write. I do it all the time at work because I represent my office. I don’t do it on the blog anymore, but I did have a co-blogger before.
I think it depends on your unique selling points and value proposition. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with plural nouns. But when I offer marketing services, I frame myself as a solopreneur rather than a one-person agency, so I use singular nouns. I do this because the way I’ve branded the business, the fact that I’m one person that will stay with the project from start to finish, get to know their employees and the project well, etc.
On my blog, I use plural nouns because I know that I eventually want to take on at least one other reviewer, and this way I won’t have to change things. I disagree with those who say that plural sounds more professional, though.
Not so much professional as successful to me. I think it makes it sound like a bigger and more successful company that way. However, it might also make it sound more modest, which might actually make it more professional now that I think about.
I have seen people do the same thing. I can see how ‘our’ is more professional, but it’s not accurate. I like to be honest, so if I am doing something solo, its just ‘me.’
Yeah I wouldn’t want to imply that they’re hiring a group of designers when in reality they’re “only” getting one.
I think if you are a one-person show, it makes sense to clearly label things as such. Plus it makes it a bit more personal. “Our” sounds a bit more formal, distanced, and corporate for some reason.
I do this all the time! Well, not for my design business, since I actually do run that with another friend, but with my own book blog. Like for my old giveaway policy, I would say things like “We are not responsible for any lost or damaged items,” when I’m the sole blogger for Adrift on Vulcan. I don’t know, I guess I just feel uncomfortable using “I,” even though it’s more accurate. That being said, though, I don’t think it’s any less professional to use “I” instead of “we” or “our,” or any of those plural nouns. It’s a habit I have yet to break. 😛
I KNOW! I swear when I write things of any importance in relation to the site it always ends up with me editing out the ‘we’ and ‘us’ after I’m done. I don’t know, I think by default when people think of businesses they think of more than one controlling source so we just kind of go back to that when writing about our own even? I don’t know but I run into this issue all the time, and when I see other designers doing it too I’m like ‘but but but! You’re only one person!’ haha
I’ve thought about this especially when my blog went from being led by me and a friend to now only me. Everything had ‘we’ ‘our’ ‘us’ all over. It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch. But then I came to the realization that it builds a communicative feeling within the user. ‘Us’ and ‘we’ and ‘our’ build community and make the user/reader feel like they are a part of. Good post!
Hahaha that’s too funny! But now that I think about it – yeah, most companies talk about themselves as a we, not an I. I have no idea why. I don’t think it would change my perception of the company is they used I versus We.
Yes, ‘our’ does sound more professional, and modest. I originally had ‘our’ all over my blog, but then realised how silly it was. It’s all my hard work, I should be the only one taking credit. So I changed everything to ‘I’ and ‘my’. It was tough, though, reducing my blog to a one-woman team. I still fall into the trap now and then.
I’ve thought about this, and I know I use ‘we’ even in a professional capacity, instead of saying “me” or “I” even if I did all the work without the rest of the team, and I think it’s because some of us are taught or inferred to that using the personal pronoun is egotistical or something? Now I don’t think it IS when it IS actually a single person, but I think people maybe perceive it that way. And of course some people DO take all the credit and use I when they should be using we… so there’s that.
I’d say if all you did was design, the singular would make sense. Personally, though, for BookHost at least, plural is more reassuring. I mean, I know my host has many employees ready to help me and I still get nervous sometimes. It’s not necessarily that the plural sounds more professional, it’s just comforting to think that there’s backup (even if there’s really not).
I am sticking with “we” for Book Host because that at least is kind of run by my husband and I. I do all of the support, client management, and regular maintenance. But my husband set up the server and if there’s ever a problem that I’m unsure about, then he steps in.