Never use the ‘royal we’ and other rules for a pronoun in business writing

Never use the ‘royal we’ and other rules for pronouns in business writing

When writing on behalf of a company, organisation or a team it is correct to use the plural pronoun ‘we’ with the adjective ‘our’ and the pronoun ‘ours’.

There are times, however, when you need to refer to yourself as an individual. In such cases, the plural pronoun ‘we’ is self-important and ridiculous unless you’re a person of high office like a monarch, a president or a pope.

Even most kings and queens, in the spirit of a modernising the image of their monarchies, rarely use the ‘royal we’ or ‘majestic plural’ as it is known. (Queen Victoria of England’s famous quote, “We are not amused,” is a famous example of the ‘royal we’.)

In formal English correspondence, when an individual is writing on behalf of an organisation, it is proper to use the pronoun ‘we’, because you are representing the organisation as a whole and not merely expressing your personal views.

Use pronoun ‘we’ when referring to the whole organisation

“We are writing to inform you that your loan application has not been successful.”

“Unless the affidavit referred to in our previous correspondence is presented to us within twenty-four hours, we will have no option but to pursue legal proceedings against you.”

“It is with much regret that we announce the closure of our northern depot due to the need to reduce operating costs.”

“We’re having trouble reaching any of your phone numbers after the storm and we’re wondering if you’re having the same problem with ours.”

You should refer to yourself as ‘I’ in all cases where the subject is something that relates directly to you, either in your private capacity or as a member of a company or team.

Use ‘I’ when expressing a personal view or action

“I will call you on Monday afternoon at around 15.00 for the latest production figures.”

“I’m writing to tell you that our members agree with your analysis and I expect to have the amended report ready by close of business today.”

“After our team-building sessions this afternoon, I suggest we catch up over coffee at the hotel.”

“I’d like to have a look at your team’s schedule for next week and, of course, you can check ours to make sure there are no clashes.”

As in all business communications, the main objective is to project professionalism and efficiency, but injecting a little warmth and inclusiveness into your writing will make it more personal.

Compare these two approaches

“The company thanks you for your interest in the new product. Enclosed are a brochure and a specification sheet. Please let us know if you need additional information and we’ll get back to you.”

A perfectly efficient and professional response to an enquiry. But it’s distant and uninvolved. Try this:

“Thank you for your interest in our new product. I’ve enclosed a brochure and specification sheet for you and, if you have any questions or need more information, please let me know.”

Not only is the second version more friendly, it also makes the point in fewer words.

Choose the correct missing pronoun

….. regret to announce the company will be closed from 1.00pm on Friday afternoon due to industrial action.

On a personal note,  ….. look forward to renewing our discussion about the World Series when I’m in New York next week.

My colleagues and I wish you happy holidays and ….. trust you will extend our greetings to your wife and family.

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