Words are a powerful force. Copy is crucial in guiding the user and helping them complete their desired actions. Not surprisingly, the product design field puts a lot of focus on polishing both pixels and copy. Recently, writing copy for digital products evolved into its own specialty—UX writing. The UX writer is an increasingly recognizable job title, and many large corporations hunt for good UX writers.

With more and more companies wanting to embed UX writers in their design teams, it’s vital to understand what the role of the UX writer entails and how it adds value to the overall design process.

In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at the role of the UX writer and explore basic UX writing guidelines.

What is UX writing?

Design is all about communication. No matter what product we design, we should always design a conversation between a product and its user.

UX writing is the practice of designing the words people see when they interact with software. UX writers create the words we read or hear when we use a digital product. They are responsible for both microcopy (labels for buttons, menu options, error messages) and macrocopy (information messages and invitations, text on confirmation pages).

Why UX writing is so important

When it comes to designing a first-class user experience, it’s no longer enough to treat copy as an afterthought. Copy can make or break the user experience! It doesn’t matter how beautiful your user interface is; if the copy is confusing, misleading, or grammatically incorrect, the user will have a bad user experience.

text box displaying an error message that is vague and doesn't provide enough details about why an error occurred.
Such error messages often cause bad user experience

That’s why everything from the smallest button labels to the welcome message has an impact on user experience. It’s the UX writer’s job to craft the right copy.

Are UX writing and marketing writing the same things?

No, they are not. It’s essential to distinguish a UX writer from a marketing writer. Marketing copywriters are concerned with attracting potential customers and converting them into real customers. UX writers create copy for people who use products (customers), and they want to make sure that the user experience is as smooth as possible.

UX writers and marketing writers join the project in different moments. Whereas a marketing copywriter joins a project when the team has an existing product and wants to promote it on the market, UX writers are involved in the design process from the very beginning. It’s important to work on text early because text problems often reveal design problems.

What UX writers do?

As you can probably guess, UX writers are responsible for creating useful, meaningful text that help users complete tasks at hand. But they are not independent specialists; they are full-fledged members of the product team. Along with designers and developers, a UX writer works to shape product experiences. Since their goal is to ensure that the product layout and copy work harmoniously together, they typically accompany user research sessions. They also participate in cross-team collaboration and share their insights with designers and developers. The insights from UX writers can have a tremendous impact on different aspects of a future product, including information architecture (IA).

UX writing guidelines

Now that we have a clear answer to the question “What is UX writing?” it’s time to discuss a few foundational UX writing guidelines. Writing the copy of the UI design is both an art and a science. While it’s impossible to provide universal rules for writing UI text, it’s possible to provide some general rules to follow.


UX writing requires thoughtful attention to the context and the audience. That’s why UX writers should first and foremost understand who they are writing for and what they need when they interact with a product. The text should be useful for the user—it should help people get where they want to go.

Concise and Clear

UX writing exists in the context of digital products, and it has unique constraints. Both the size of the screen and the way people comprehend the information on a digital space (people scan, not read) affect the copy. As a result, copy should be concise and yet communicate the meaning effectively.

But concise doesn’t mean short; it means something closer to efficient. When we are writing concisely, we look at our message and make sure every word on the screen has its job. It’s better to remove any potential clutter, any information that might not be necessary for people who will interact with this product.  Follow Mark Twain’s advice: “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

  • Inconcise copy: Would you like to save your changes?
  • Concise copy: Save changes?

UX writing needs to be accessible to users with different abilities so that everyone can have a great experience. Try to write for all reading levels. That’s why, for the sake of clarity, you should always remove any industry-specific terms and jargon. Replace such terms with simple words.

  • Unclear copy: Buffering…
  • Clear copy: Preparing video…


We know that people’s eyes follow an F shaped pattern as they read over the screen. They read the first line, the second line, then start skipping down the page while catching only the first or second word of each sentence. For this reason, it’s important to keep your text not only concise but also frontloaded—put all important concepts first. By doing that, you will make people’s eyes start with important words as they scan through the page.

Also, avoid long blocks of text. Provide text in chunks—easily scannable segments of text that focus on a limited number of concepts at a time. Your copy can be broken up into bulleted lists or you can have each sentence be a max of 80 characters. Just like this article is divided into sections and paragraphs, the long copy on your website or app should have a similar structure. If you have to deliver a lot of content for your users, it’s better to reveal any details as needed. The principles of progressive disclosure work well for UX writing. In the most basic form, this mechanism can be implemented as a ‘Read more’ link to the full content.

Evernote uses progressive disclosure to provide more information about the product.
Evernote uses progressive disclosure to provide more information about the product.

Easily translatable

Copy should be internationalized across linguistic, geographical, and cultural boundaries. The text should be understandable by anyone regardless of their culture or language. That’s why it’s essential to use simple and direct language because not only will it make content easy to understand, but also easy to translate.

Be careful with humor

Humor can humanize the product. But similar to any other component of UI, humor should be designed. People are likely to read the text in your interface many times, and what might seem funny at first can become irritating over time (especially if you choose to use humor in error messages). Also, remember that humor in one culture doesn’t necessarily translate well to other cultures.

Consider the platform you’re designing for

Use language that’s consistent with the user’s platform. The terms we use when describing the interaction with a desktop app do not necessarily work on mobile platforms. For example, if you design an iPhone app, we can’t say ‘click’ when referring to the interactive UI element. We need to say ‘tap’ instead.

Tone and voice

Good UX writing not only makes interfaces more usable but it also builds trust. But in order to build trust, the copy must embody the voice of the organization. UX writers think how the language they choose to use will fit into the voice of the product and brand as a whole. What tone of voice is most likely to resonate with their user.

Pyramid showing the brand voice at the top and UX writing principles as the foundation and bulk of ux writing.
Brand voice and UX writing principles. Image by uxplanet.org

Consistent copy

It’s vital to ensure that the copy is consistent across all products and interfaces. All parts of your products should give users a feeling that they were written by the same person, even though many different people prepared the copy.

It’s a well-known fact that inconsistency creates confusion. One typical example of inconsistency is replacing a word with a synonym in a different part of the UI. For instance, if you decide to call the process of arranging something “Scheduling” in one part of UI, do not call it “Booking” in other parts of your UI.

Show, don’t tell principle

Human beings are incredibly visual creatures. An ability to interpret visual information is hard-wired into our brains. In some contexts, it might be hard (or nearly impossible) to describe something using only words. That’s where imagery can support UX writers to deliver the message. It supplements the copy and provides additional information. Below is an example that helps users  find specific information.

A modal window shows the barcode on a store receipt
It is not obvious where the users can find the barcode without the image.


The design industry needs people who are intuitively good at anticipating what words are needed and when. And as we see deeper integration with technology in our daily lives, the need for UX writers will only increase.

You may be surprised at the time and effort it takes to write effective UI text. But believe me, it’s worth it. Every word in your product is part of a conversation with your users. And it’s your goal as a designer to design this conversation to be effective.