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Redefining the “Royal We”

The "royal we" has a questionable reputation. According to The American Heritage College Dictionary, it means "the pronoun used by a sovereign . . . to refer to himself or herself."

I’d like to present a new definition of the self-absorbed we. I propose that it means, in contrast, "the pronoun managers use to build and support a team."

Examples of the newly crowned we:

Coaching an employee to improve performance, the manager says, "When we handle these complaints with diplomacy, we gain good will throughout the community." This we is much more powerful than the isolating you.

Thanking an employee, the manager writes, "Thank you for getting the reports out so fast. Because of your speed and accuracy, we can all move ahead on the project faster." This we shows the employee how significant his or her efforts are.

Referring to the members of the department, the manager writes, "We [not my staff] will handle all the details for you." This we tells the reader that the manager is involved and accountable.

If you are a manager, go ahead: Speak and write as the "royal we." You–that’s all of you in your group or department–will gain in influence and ability.

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.