Usage and Grammar
Q. I am writing an annual report and the company wants it to be conservative, yet conversational. Mixing third person (the company made a profit) with first person (we made a profit) seems clumsy, but it could be the only way to make the report conservative and largely traditional, while still trying to get reader buy-in. Do you have any style tips on how to mix these different voices without coming across as inconsistent and clumsy?
A. A mixture of first and third person would actually be appropriate in this context. The owners of a company naturally talk and write about it in the third person as well as in the first, because there is a difference between the people who make up the company and the company as an organization: We made a decision and the company lost money. (We personally did not lose money; the company did.) We’re going to a party the company is hosting. (The company is picking up the tab; we get to drink the champagne.) Restricting the report to a single construction might even become monotonous and unnatural. “The company this, the company that” could begin to sound officious, and “we this, we that” might leave readers wondering who “we” are.