If you’re a web or app designer, you know the importance of good user experience (UX) design. But what about UX writing? Poorly written instructions or unclear error messages can frustrate users and ruin your hard work. Here are 10 tips to help you create effective UX writing.
1. Write like a Human
All too often, UX writers write like computers—using industry jargon and long, convoluted sentences. People don’t speak that way in real life; they use short words and simple sentences. Talk to your users in their language, not yours.
2. Be Concise
Brevity is the soul of wit, as the saying goes. Give your use only as much information as is necessary for them to complete their task. If you can say it in five words, use five words.
3. Keep Sentences and Paragraphs Short
Long sentences and paragraphs become hard to read and understand quickly, and users often skim them without ever reading them carefully. Let the user get the information they need as quickly as possible.
4. Use Headings and Subheadings to Organize Information
People read online through a series of short bursts—or “bites”—of information, and subheadings help them focus on what’s important and find their way back to where they left off if necessary.
5. Use Active Voice, Not Passive
Writing in passive voice obscures who is doing what and who is responsible for each action. In other words, it hides the actor—the person or thing that performs a particular action. Write in active voice so users clearly understand who’s performing each action.
6. Use Plain Language Whenever Possible
Plain, everyday language is best for communicating with users. Write as if you’re speaking to the person sitting next to you at a coffee shop. Use short words, short sentences, and simple punctuation.
7. Proofread Your Work Carefully
Spelling errors make you look unprofessional, so always check your work carefully before you publish. Hire a proofreader if necessary.
8. Avoid Jargon, Technical Language, and Acronyms
Industry jargon is the kiss of death for UX writing because it shows that you don’t understand what your users are interested in or care about. And while some industry-specific technical language is unavoidable, always define acronyms before using them.
9. Use Personal Words and Expressions, but Don’t Be too Familiar
Personal words and expressions create a kind of informal rapport with your users, who will appreciate the human touch. But don’t go overboard: UX writing is not an invitation to be informal or familiar with your users.
10. Use Pronouns to Avoid Repetition
Repetition is always distracting for users, but turning every “he” or “she” into a plural pronoun makes your writing scattered and unwieldy. Use singular pronouns instead, along with contractions when appropriate.
A little extra effort can make all the difference between plain UX writing and polished, professional UX design. Create clear instructions for your users—and don’t forget to proofread!