Volume 32, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1573-9775
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1236


Advertising firms and government agencies often face the challenge to make their written materials fit for young people. Lexical imitation has been shown to be an inadequate strategy: youths react negatively when outsiders borrow words from their registers. Communication professionals have little to add: they tend to stick to suggestions, such as ‘use simple and clear language’. This indeterminate situation makes it relevant to have a thorough evaluation whenever a new approach is tried. In 2006, when elections for parliament were being held, a Dutch municipality wrote a letter to all citizens that were going to vote for the first time. The letter urged them to use their right to vote in a style that can be characterized as relational. For example, the first sentence was: “Hey, a letter from the major? Yes, because I want to tell you something important”. To evaluate the adequacy of this communication style a formal version was made of the original letter that differed in style, but not in content. Both letters were evaluated by 258 secondary school pupils. Only respondents with little interest in politics showed positive reactions to the relational style: they found this version more attractive, more intelligible and better fit for a young audience than the formal one. All respondents showed the same negative reactions: with the relational version they considered the author less credible and the letter less appropriate. Effects on beliefs and intentions were absent because 94 percent of the respondents had already decided to vote. These findings suggest that agencies should consider in their correspondence a relational style only when it is directed at young addressees with little interest in the subject matter.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): persuasiveness; relational style of writing; text appreciation; youth audience
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