You & I
Whether you are a writer or a reader, you may be wondering what the proper use of the pronoun I versus pronoun You in a sentence is. Sometimes, it can spell the difference between a good and a bad read. At first glance, they appear to be one and the same, and interchangeable: if you were to create either a new post or article, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with the correct word. With nearly identical uses and in many cases the appearance of You and I will be the same.
Don’t let this fool you. This is not an easy exercise. There’s a very fundamental difference between the two and that is emotion.
Make sure you know what you want to portray in a written message. Do you want to make them feel less or more connected to you, the messenger? Do you want to convey a personal experience? Or do you seek to convey a suggestion or command? Are you trying to be subjective or objective? What is the point of view?
Writing can be tricky, but with the right idea/s in mind, and a little bit of help, it should be fine.
Think about the kind of material that you usually read. Make note of how this makes you feel, what it makes you think about, and the overall reading experience.
The use of a particular pronoun will usually show a writer’s personality, and can be a window to their soul too.
Most often you’ll see more personalised written material using the pronoun I (first person) instead of You. Most likely, these are personal blogs, diaries and/or journals.
For example, when I is used, one can tell it is about either a person’s own thoughts, or feelings, or experience. It most definitely appeals to the readers’ emotions. It expresses relativity, communicates a link or connection to something. Using I in writing can feel connective and inclusive.
Hence, material written generally with I more than You can be taken subjectively.
Now take a moment to think of instructions, directions, recipes, advertising, or quotes. A set of instructions is an ideal example of when you’d expect content to be different from those written with the pronoun I. It is highly possible that it is written to inform, rather than to evoke something out of the reader.
For example, when you read a written material using You (second person), it will most likely be a suggestion or command – a list of what needs to be done by the person you are addressing or talking to, usually in a step by step order. Using You in writing can be distant and stand off-ish.
Hence, material written generally with You more than I can be taken objectively.
This is where it gets confusing. Sometimes, stories call for use of both I and You. According to Merriam-Webster, (sometimes) the pronoun You is used so the reader is immersed into the narrative as a character involved in the story. With this, the writer allows the reader to be, and to feel emotions and experiences, and therefore, making the writing and reading subjective. It really all depends as well on the writer’s style.
For example, letters and songs can use both I and You.
If in doubt, then use the third person like he, she, they. This is the most objective of all pronouns.