To make your writing seem personal, write like a person, for cryin’ out loud.
That goes for most corporate communications as well as speeches and presentations, as Dick Cavett pointed out in a recent NY Times blog post. The former talk show host was referring to political candidates’ speeches, but the same principles hold true for effective copywriting and business writing.
First, contractions are OK except under the most formal circumstances. Cavett’s suggestion:
“Change all “I wills” and “I shalls” from the speech to “I’ll’; Also, “I haves” and “I ams” to “I’ve” and “I’m,” etc. You’d be surprised how much this cuts down on the oratory tone.”
Cavett’s second tip is the secret of all effective writing, speaking — even radio personalities.
“Tip #2. Pretend you are speaking to one person. One single person. Because that’s what everybody is. No one watching or sitting in the audience is an “all of you” or an “everyone” or a “those of you” or a “Hi, everybody,” and no one is a “ladies and gentlemen.” You, out there, are a “you.” So, speaker, think of yourself as being viewed by only two eyes. (Presumably on the same person.) The most magical word you can use, short of a person’s name, is “you.”
Hey, you — got that?