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Pluralistic

Imagine our goal is creation of a community environment (perhaps such as UX.stackexchange).

Through our word choices, we can choose individual or pluralistic expressions - and the words we use affect how users perceive/experience the site.

What type of expression should we use to best fit our overall goal of community and user engagement?

Individualistic

Imagine your goal is creation of a community environment (perhaps such as UX.stackexchange).

Through your word choices, you can choose individual or pluralistic expressions - and the words you use affect how users perceive/experience the site.

What type of expression should you use to best fit your overall goal of community and user engagement?


The difference in the above two questions is subtle but perfectly illustrates my question:

  • With a primary goal of creating community/user engagement, should designers use individual language (you, I, me, your, my, etc) or pluralistic language (we, you all, our, etc)?
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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Behind the site you're most likely to find a "we" with phrases like (pluralistic):

  • About us
  • Our products

But this remains true only when there's a team of people behind that site. If you're an individual (like an online resume, or similar, you should try individualistic).

On the other hand, when addressing users, sites tend to focus on the individual behind the computer. The user (individualistic).

  • [You (2nd person singular)] Join us!
  • [You (2nd person singular)] Contribute
  • [You (2nd person singular)] Download here

The recommendation here is to keep it honest and consistent to foster an open communication between the parties.

A while ago, I was approached by an independent consultant with no staff, that had her website inconsistent between "we" and "I". I suggested to change everything to "I" due to the fact that if a potential customer knew that she was working "solo" and a customer had the "Team" and Size expectations behind the "We" word, she would break her potential customer's expectations as she was only one person consulting and not a team. Hence, I suggested to change from "About us" to "About me", among other labels and paragraphs throughout the site's texts.

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... do I need to clarify my question? This is interesting information but does not seem to answer my question. –  enderland Feb 4 '13 at 13:02
    
@enderland You alone know the scope of your project. "Keep it honest and consistent" (with your brand / idea) seems like a good answer to me. –  Yisela Feb 4 '13 at 21:10
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For social networks, using You and Your starts a conversation and the users get a feeling that they are talking to someone.

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Can you provide any evidence that this effect is common and that it affects behaviour? –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Feb 19 '13 at 10:28
    
Not scientific, but here's an anecdotal case study: dustincurtis.com/you_should_follow_me_on_twitter.html –  Sam Blake Feb 19 '13 at 14:21
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