Your New Favorite Three Letter Word

You’re going to ace this quiz, I know you are:

What’s the single most profit-generating word in advertising?

A. Free
B. Sex
C. You

You guessed it! C.


You can’t help it. You’re the center of your universe. We all are.

You’re lucky. Advertisers spent a ton of money on research to discover the power of this three-letter word—and now you can snag it for free to improve your marketing.

You probably didn’t need official research to tell you this, though. You know how it is. You’re at a party and someone is droning on and on about themselves. You tune out, don’t you? (By the way, have you ever seen the stand-up comedian Brian Regan? If not, treat yourself to a quick detour over to YouTube and watch his “Me Monster” bit.)

Your donors do the same thing when your communications drone and and on about ‘we’ and ‘us.’ Instead, you can capture their attention by using the word ‘you’ and its variations (e.g., yours, you’re, you’ve, you’ll). For every ‘we’ or ‘us’ you write, try to use as least twice as many ‘you’ words.

If you need help increasing your ‘you’ word count, here’s a trick I use when I write appeal letters for nonprofits: Take a sentence, preferably your opening sentence, and challenge yourself to rewrite it starting with the word you.

For example, instead of this:
I am so grateful for your recent gift

You might write this:
Your recent gift made me feel so grateful.

Or, this:
A gift in your will is a meaningful way to tell the world who you are and what you care about.

Could become this:
You can tell the world who you are and what you care about with a gift in your will.

You see, starting a sentence with the word ‘you’ not only gets your reader’s attention, but it sets the tone for the rest of what’s to come. It’s hard to be a Me Monster when you begin with ‘you.’

I like to practice this trick in emails I write or even text messages to friends. I’ll write something, then back up to the opening line and challenge myself to rewrite it starting with you. Try it! But I’ll warn you: it’s kind of addicting once you get started.

You’ve probably noticed all the you’s in this article. I figured I might as well practice on you! There are 438 words in this article and 64 of them are ‘you’ words. What do you think? Do you feel it’s over the top? I bet it got your attention.