The Word ‘People’

When your writing includes the word people, who are you referring to? The problem is people is not very specific.


Are you discussing people compared to robots or animals or aliens? If that’s the case, then people might be right word. You could also use human beings or just humans. And using people may just be too generic (e.g., People are just naturally cruel.) Does this sentence mean that ALL people are cruel or that most are or maybe just some or them? Should the reference in this case be to a specific group of people? Keep in mind that each choice affects readers differently.

Be more specific

Instead of using such a large-group noun, narrow it down (e.g., adults, men, women, children, farmers, Northerners, Californians, etc.). It helps focus your message. Unless you’re discussing the entire human race, then identify which specific group of people you’re referring to and in what particular situation or circumstances. Even then, don’t make your subjects anonymous. It reduces the sharpness of your content.

Example: People said his book wouldn’t sell. Which people? What were their credentials? Did he ask them for their opinion or did they volunteer it? However, suppose the sentence said:

Several well-known critics reviewed his book and told him it wouldn’t sell.

Now, this is something to take heed of. The author could ask each of them what they thought was wrong or what could be approved. In the first version of this sentence, that would be impossible.

Notice that the critics in the second case are not generic people but are “well known critics”. Readers now have a very clear picture of who they are.


Hopefully, this should give you some idea about how to sharpen your manuscript. Search for the word people, and other generic words like it. Then replace them with more specific, more precise choices.

Copyright 2019 by Affordable Editing Services

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