I spent about four hours during the last few days fixing inconsistencies of the pronouns and point of view in the manuscript of my latest book. My editor pointed out how frequently I would switch back and forth between “we” and “you” when referring to the audience of the book. The book is for religious educators and, since I am a part of that group, I often took on the first person plural perspective instead of a the coaching tone of the second person point of view.
So, I did a search and find of ” we ” and looked at all 398 instances of the word in the manuscript, replacing it frequently with a more appropriate “you” in most cases.
I am so grateful that my editor pointed out this bad habit. It is obviously something I have developed through the many blog posts, articles, emails, and even books I have written over the years.
Here is a quick set of rules I wish I had established for myself while working on the current book. I don’t consider them to be universal principles, necessarily, and I may even be suggesting poor grammar, but these are the rules I followed as I edited the manuscript.
When to Use I, We, You, or They
I – Use when telling a story.
We – Use when referring to a universal group like human beings or, in the case of this book, the Catholic Church. This means you can also use “we” to describe a universal principle or law that describes the common experience of this universal group. You can also use “we” when referring to the common journey through the book as in, “In the next chapter we will . . .” but use this sparingly or not at all.
You – Use to refer to the reader.
They – Use to refer to the people the reader is going to serve with the help of the book. You can also use the third person when referring to an impersonal group of people.