« Review: Interested in Language? You’ll Love This Book | Main | Make Constructive Comments Without Making Enemies »

January 22, 2020

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Jennifer Leclercq

I notice I do this!! Should I stop (or rather start using pronouns more)?

Business Writing Blog

Hi Jennifer,

I just looked through emails I sent recently and found that I had written "See you soon" and "Sorry to hear about your mother-in-law"--both missing "I" and a verb. I'll bet most of us do this shortening. Let's talk about it after we get other people's opinions.

Lynn

K. Evans

I do it too. However, I don't do it in formal emails and I don't do it where the meaning can be ambiguous (don't do it where the meaning can be ambiguous).

Stephanie

I do this frequently, but mostly in text messages or other casual written exchanges with friends. It comes across as informal and familiar to me, so I don’t think I would be comfortable doing it in most written business communication. I would assume that if used in a business setting it might be done as an attempt to come across as friendly and familiar, and to more quickly build rapport. Sometimes that kind of thing works (depending on the industry and the purpose for communication—I think very informal language is common in sales copy, particularly for social media). But there’s also the possibility that it could come across as flippant, irritating people who prefer more formality. As with all communication, it makes sense to consider the audience first.

Dan Duett

Hi, Lynn! Long-time reader, first time poster. Did you notice that I just omitted a pronoun?!

I agree with Stephanie that, as with most things, we should consider our audience. Pronoun dropping is usually fine in casual exchanges but should be avoided in most business contexts. I wrote about this a few years ago in an article on weak business writing. I'm copying/pasting from that article because I still stand by my argument.

==============

While English isn't a "pro drop" language, pronoun dropping is very much a part of conversational English:

* See you tomorrow!
* Sure is hot!
* Plenty of fish in the sea!

It's even more common in fast-paced written communication like chatting and texting. But it's generally restricted to casual speech—and for good reason. When you drop yourself from the sentence, you distance yourself from your own statements. You risk coming off as detached and insincere:

* Appreciate your response.
* Very sorry about that.

Sometimes, the subject anchors the sentence and is crucial to clarity. In the following sentences, it's not clear whether we're telling the reader about ourselves or telling them to do something:

* Just read the report.
* Look forward to having that back up and running…

By explicitly including yourself, you're more likely to own your position and convey respect to your recipient. Reserve pronoun dropping for informal speech with those you know well.

==============

Here's the full article for anyone who's curious:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/weak-business-writing-how-fix-dan-duett/

I'm curious to hear what you and others have to say! Cheers and thanks for years of helpful guidance :-)

Laura

Agree with other posters. :)

OK in casual context, not OK in more official communications.

Patty Rechberger

I am super guilty of this and it does not bother me at all, unless it's too ambiguous and I cannot be sure of the writer's meaning. Once in a while I notice that I am doing it and then wonder if I should make sure to include the pronouns, but I also hate repetition and texts full of "I" or "you" - so if I can avoid them, I do.

Interesting topic, as usual, and I am very curious to hear your point of view.

Patty

I almost always do this, and then I almost always correct myself when I proofread before sending! :-) I feel the same as other commenters, that it's OK in informal settings, but comes across as disrespectful in business and formal settings. I also see the ambiguity in sentences like 'Look forward to being together.' That could be seen as a command! ('You better look forward to being together!') So I always add the 'I' to make it clear I'm referring to myself. Thanks Lynn! Another great blog post!

Business Writing Blog

Hello Jennifer, K., Stephanie, Dan, Laura, Patty R., and Patty. Thanks for your enthusiastic comments on this issue.

I have updated my blog post by adding to it, so you can see my thoughts on implicit pronouns. Thanks for your willingness to comment before I did.

Jennifer, please read my additional comments in the blog post above. It's fine to leave out pronouns--in most situations.

K., thanks for giving that example of ambiguity!

Stephanie, I agree with you. Thanks for your detailed comment.

Dan, nice to hear from you! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate your pasting in the content from your post. I read the full post and recommend it: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/weak-business-writing-how-fix-dan-duett

Laura, I like your comment--a fine example of implicit pronouns.

Patty R., I agree about the repetition of "I," which I mention in my expanded blog post. As always, I appreciate your input.

Patty, thanks for the example. You are smart to proofread your messages. It's surprising the number of people who do not.

Everyone, (I) thank you!

Lynn

Maria S

I think it depends on the context. I don't need to write business emails in English very often, and my native language, Finnish, is a "pro drop" language, like Spanish. Thanks, Dan, for a great way to describe the phenomenon and a very interesting article! When I do write business emails in English, they tend to be more formal than their equivalents in Finnish would be.

That said, I often drop pronouns in informal online communication unless omitting the pronoun would make the message ambiguous.

Maria

Business Writing Blog

Hi Maria,

That sounds like a smart approach. Thanks for commenting.

Lynn

Abhishekt5

Hi Lynn,

I have a habit of getting very informal with my communication - I think this post is quite helpful.

Abbey

Business Writing Blog

Glad to hear it, Abbey.

Lynn

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)