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Common UX Writing Questions

Recently, a few people have asked me several questions about UX writing. So let's talk about it.

Should I use Hemingway, Grammarly, or another editing app in my writing?

If you want or need to, sure! I don't personally enjoy these apps because I find the notations distracting. However, they can be a great tool if you need to double check something, or if you'd like to check the grade level of your writing.

Note, too, that these aren't foolproof. Though these types of tools are getting smarter every day, they don't catch every mistake or make perfect suggestions. UX writing usually follows standard guidelines, but it's important to stay conversational as well. For example, I'd never use whom in my copy even if it's "technically" correct.

Am I less of a writer if I need editing?

To the contrary: you're less of a writer if you refuse editing. The writers I respect the most, who have years of experience, still bring their work to others for feedback. We all need a second pair of eyes now and then, especially to make sure that copy is clear to people less familiar with the context.

Sometimes the best advice comes from people who aren't UX writers: designers, PMs, users, etc. In most cases, copy should be simple and conversational. Mine those words and phrases from people around you.

Can non-native speakers be English UX Writers?

Yes, yes, yes. Though many UX job posting still request native speakers, anyone can be a UX writer as long as they have a good grasp of the language. Those who use English as a second or third language are sometimes even more advanced, as they know different ways of thinking about language and structure.

Can I transition from marketing/technical/creative writing to UX?

Sure, as long as you know it's different. Marketing copy often wants to get noticed; UX copy is meant to go unnoticed, acting as a tool to guide the user towards their destination. Technical writers tend to have more space (in articles, manuals, etc.) than UX writers as well, so learning how to be concise could be a learning curve.

As for creative writing, I can speak with more experience. My BA is in this field, and I had to unlearn a lot. UX writing isn't meant to be poetic or pretty; it's just supposed to work. That said, my personal writing has actually improved since I became a UX writer. I now know the value of saying exactly what I mean, and getting a lot of meaning across in just a few words.

Should I be witty?

Please don't.

Honestly, many UX copy examples will show clever, punny phrases. While these have a place, most copy needs to follow basic design heuristics: giving the user what they're expecting, meeting them where they're at, and being aware of their mental model. If I'm getting an error message that you just lost the last three hours' of my data, I don't want a cutesy message about it; I want to know if it's possible to fix.

Be real: Is it easy?

Yes and no. It took me about six months to learn how product development works (collaborating with designers, choosing battles with PMs, etc.), and another six months until the copy started to come more effortlessly. Like most things, your writing will get better with time.

A running joke is that all UX writers do is decide if a CTA should say Buy or Buy Now. While I've definitely sat through those meetings before, most of my day consists of clarifying messages, reordering information, asking questions about the feature, and collaborating with those around me.

Why shouldn't I become a UX writer?

Don't be a UX writer if you want to be creative at work, can't take criticism, don't want to iterate on the same feature over and over again, or expect to work solo.

Is it worth it?

I honestly love my job. Part of it is because I enjoy the people I work with; the rest is that I enjoy making a difference within a product. I've noticed that those who don't like the position tend to work for companies that don't place a lot of value on UX writing, other than hey can you look at this copy real quick before we release tomorrow editing.

It's a growing field that comes with a lot of opportunities for growth, challenges, and freedom. Most companies are open to remote or hybrid options; many are willing to hire internationally, and be flexible on your hours. It's a unique position within the tech world full of a lot of cool people. I can't recommend it enough.


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