Spanish uses both a formal and informal word for “you.” In your Hispanic marketing and communications, it’s important to use the appropriate form. Unfortunately, the best choice isn’t always straightforward. Here, we’ll discuss the two dominant forms of “you” in Latin America, the formal “usted” and informal “tú.”
These five guidelines will help you talk to your audience in the most appropriate and relevant way possible.
One very important consideration when deciding whether to use the formal “usted” or informal “tú” is the age group of your audience. It’s generally accepted that formal “usted” is used to address people older than you. So, for example, if your organization’s mission revolves around working with senior citizens, then it might make sense to use the formal “usted” in all of your communications. However, if you target an exclusively younger audience, then you may consider using the informal “tú” exclusively.
Another very important factor is the nature or closeness of your relationship with whom you’re speaking. If you’re writing a cover letter for an important report to a funding organization, for example, then you’ll probably want to use “usted.” However, if you’re updating a close group of donors, then using the informal “tú” is a good option.
Where your audience is located is also an important consideration. For example, Colombia tends to be more formal, so if your organization is communicating primarily with Colombians then you’re probably going to use “usted” more often than if your audience is mostly in, say, Mexico. In Spain, they also use the informal, plural form of “vosotros,” and in parts of Latin America they use the informal, singular form of “vos.” You’ll only find “vos” used commonly in written form in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, although it’s spoken throughout Latin America.
Where you’re communicating is also going to affect the decision to use “tú” or “usted.” Social media platforms tend to be informal, so in Facebook or Instagram posts, the informal “tú” is likely going to be the best form. This is generally true for web copy as well, where a more informal tone is standard. In more professional communications “usted” is often the best option, but of course this depends on other factors such as your relationship with the specific audience.
Last but certainly not least, your organization’s voice and tone and how that relates to the message you want to convey will inform which form to use. How you want your brand to resonate with your audience will absolutely affect the decision to use “tú” or “usted.” If you’re a youth organization that has a spirited and positive voice and tone, then you’re probably going to use “tú” in the majority of your communications. If you want to convey a more serious tone in your communications, then “usted” might be the best option.
At the end of the day, there’s no silver bullet for when to use the informal “tú” or formal “usted” in your marketing and communications. The decision is a result of considering various factors and choosing which option best fits the age group, relationship, channel and region to match that to your organization’s voice and tone. If you have questions on this topic, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.