Social Distancing Is Changing the Way We Write. That’s a Problem.

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Kids who suffer from mild communication disorders, even a single speech-related error, are more likely to experience limited social interactions than their peers, 2015 study found. Five years later, in the midst of social-distancing mandates and stay-at-home orders, we’re finding the reverse may also hold true: Limited social interaction is negatively affecting our ability to communicate.

Full disclosure: I’m not a researcher, and I have limited data to support that assertion. But I am an executive editor at a B2B marketing agency, and over the past several weeks I’ve reviewed a ton of content—all of it written by editorial pros in quarantine—that creates distance between the writer and the reader.

It’s not intentional, but it’s happening.

And it raises important questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic is altering our ability to connect with each other through the written word.

Spatial Distance and Point of View

Any content creator worth their salt understands the value of speaking directly to the reader. In the agency world, our clients rely on us to write content that creates connections between brands and audiences. But if our writing feels sterile and remote, we’ve failed.

One of the best ways to create a connection involves using the second-person point of view. In second person, we use pronouns like “you” and “your”—language that engages the reader on a personal level and contextualizes the content to the reader’s own circumstances. We instill the second-person concept in our writers from day one at the agency, and they’re usually obsessive about working it into their content.

Until recently.


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