Do you admire people who do what so many only dream of—write a definitive nonfiction book on a subject they care passionately about ?
These experts also care enough to turn their manuscripts over to an editor for improving structure, tone, clarity, word choice, and more. Yet even with all these elements smoothed out, they can undermine their whole effort if they craft their writing strictly from their own point of view.
If it’s all about you, the writer, it’s time to ask: Who’s this book for, anyway?
Writing from an “I” Point of View
Yes, it’s natural to craft stories from an “I” point of view. After all, these stories are based on your life experiences that you generously want to share. But your readers will find each story and its underlying message far more engaging if you, as its creator, take a back seat and put them in the front. Write from their point of view, not your own.
Do you habitually start paragraphs with statements like “I want you to . . . ” or “I’ve created this to . . . ” or “I have done the research and I’m telling you that . . . .”? If so, you’re dictating, not persuading—plus you risk not engaging readers in what you passionately want to say. Instead, shift into a style that puts them in the front seat. For example:
- “I want you to understand the importance of eating well . . . ” becomes “You’ll understand the importance of eating well by . . .”
- “I’ve created this streamlined recipe to save you time” becomes “You’ll save time using this streamlined recipe.”
- “I have done the research and I’m telling you that . . . ” becomes “From recent research, you can see that . . . ”
First Person Count
To determine if you’re unknowingly dictating and not persuading, take this one action: Select a chapter you’ve written and count the number of times you used first person (I, my, mine, we, our). Then count the number of times you wrote in the second person (you, your, yours).
A high percentage of “yous”–the higher the better–puts your readers in the front seat. Bydoing this, you’re more likely to engage them in the subject you feel passionate about and make writing your nonfiction book worthwhile.
(excluding examples, 17 “yous” in this post and 0 “I’s”)
Barbara McNichol edits nonfiction books in the areas of business, self-help, how to, health, and more. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org