“We” or “I”? Why Not Both?

Sometimes we slavishly follow the rules of writing, when we ought to focus on communicating. We try to never split an infinitive. (I just did!) We’re put off by contractions. (Did you notice mine?) And we avoid starting a sentence with a conjunction. (Why?)

Another "rule" people take too far is to avoid using the pronouns I and we in the same message. But why shouldn’t we mix them? Here is a perfectly good example that incorporates both:

We are looking forward to working with you on the fair housing project. I will phone you next week to plan our first meeting.

Here is another that works just fine:

I was so pleased to get your message yesterday afternoon. We are delighted that you have accepted the position.

Yesterday I got an email asking whether the head of an organization ought to use we, since the person represents the entire organization. The answer is an emphatic sometimes! At times, the individual will write as himself. At other times, he will be the voice of the organization, as in this example:

We are making every effort to comply with the new standards by January 1.

Even with the example above, a mix of I and we is fine:

We are making every effort to comply with the new standards by January 1. I am personally committed to meeting the deadline.

Follow the rules of business writing to produce clear, compelling documents. But if a sentence sound fine with a but at the beginning, use but. And if you want to use I and we in the same message, do it! Just make sure you communicate with your readers.

Lynn
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