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LawProse Lesson #292: A secret for good personal notes.

I have always been client-focused. Indeed, the very art of translating is based on centering the attention on others as it conveys the author's message—not mine. I apply the advice below not only because it shows that I care and that it is warmer phrasing; I apply it because it reflects how I truly think.

Write “you”-centered notes, not “I”-centered notes. In any short personal letter, try to ensure that “you” and “your” predominate over “I,” “me,” and “mine.” (Think of the sarcasm of the Beatles’ song “I Me Mine”—about self-centeredness.) Put yourself in the position of the recipient and consider how much better the second of these makes you feel:

  • “I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your coming by the hospital last week. I just can’t thank you enough.” [A less-literate writer would use “you” in place of “your” there.]

  • “You were so thoughtful to come by the hospital last week. You’re such a good friend. Thank you.”

Keep this point in mind whenever you’re writing a warm letter.

By the way, it also works in hostile, accusatory letters:

  • “I think you stepped beyond what I’d consider appropriate.”

  • “You behaved badly.”

A word to the wise.

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