I have a company which consists of only myself. The company has its own distinct name which is registered.

Should I use "I" or "we" to refer to my own sole proprietorship when writing marketing materials, introductions, offers, etc? If both are generally acceptable, what sort of different nuances these writing styles convey?

For example:

  • We provide the following services: blah, blah, blah.
  • I provide the following services: blah, blah, blah.

I am hesitating to use "we" because I am afraid that it will look like I am trying to make my sole proprietorship seem like a bigger company.

I am hesitating to use "I" because it would be silly to re-write everything if I ever hire someone or get a business partner one day.

  • Can we assume British English? – Charles Jul 30 '12 at 14:58
  • I prefer writing in a style which is equally understandable and natural to both British and American English speakers. If I need to choose, I will pick the original (= British) English. If there are any differences between these options, I would be interested to know. – snap Jul 30 '12 at 17:50

You should use "we" when referring to the company or speaking for it. Technically and literally, a company implies more than one person. Many countries allow one-person proprietorships by simply bending this definition by allowing the director to also masquerade as the required shareholder.

In any event, people expect companies to involve more than one person and might be thrown off a little by the first-person singular. I suppose an exception could be made if the company is named something along the lines of John Doe Services, where you are said John of Doe.

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  • 4
    Always "we". A company is a we, even if it's called John Doe Services. After all, you don't want to have to rewrite your marketing materials as soon as you start hiring staff! – user16269 Jul 30 '12 at 9:05
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    If you use I, people would probably think you are not speaking as company's representative, but you are saying a personal preference. – kiamlaluno Jul 31 '12 at 0:08
  • I use a good mix of both. When talking with other company representatives personally then I use "I", for official matters always "we". "We" adds value in a professional setup. – mimi May 23 at 2:59

There's no law saying you can't use we for one person - even the Queen does it!

It would be normal to use we for a company, even if there was only one person doing the job.

It's also standard for scientific papers: "We present a possible solution to the problem of blah...."

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  • I don't like this explanation; that would be the "royal we" and can be seen as prætentious. Saying "we" in this case is not at all pretentious, and is acceptable for different reasons. – Mechanical snail Jul 30 '12 at 8:29
  • I think you'll find that it's "Her Majesty The Queen"! ;) – Ste Jul 30 '12 at 9:39
  • I was partially afraid of using "we" exactly for this reason: I did not want my potential customers to think that I am trying to put myself to a level of a royalty. – snap Jul 30 '12 at 10:07
  • @ste - depending which side you were on in the wars of the roses - the 50th in line hanovarian descendent to a traitorous Henry Tudor... – mgb Jul 30 '12 at 12:51

You and the corporation are not the same entity, you have different responsibilities and liabilities, different lifespans, etc.

We is appropriate, and as David Wallace said in a comment, you don't want to throw out all of your marketing material just as it starts paying off because I is no longer accurate.

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