Terminology

UX writers face many wide-reaching decisions. Which component is most appropriate here? How much does the user want and need to know? When is the best time, and where's the best place, to communicate our message?


Then you drop into the next circle: Is this dynamic content doable for the devs? Is it worth changing the design? Is the microcopy accessible? Does it match our tone and voice guidelines? Are we being consistent?


All of this matters, and there are dozens of articles written on each of these topics. What I see less of is the micro half of microcopy: the little decisions, like terms and punctuation, that stare us in the face with a white screen and a blinking cursor.


My desktop background looks like any Pinterest-pinned inspirational quote. It's a black and white picture of the mountains with thin typeface above the peaks: "You can't edit a blank page." I love that, not only in UX writing but in other facets of my life. I have to start somewhere, even if it's just a first bike ride, to reach the level of fitness I want; I have to learn the C chord on the ukulele before getting to more advanced sounds.


So it's no secret that UX writing starts with, well, writing. Sometimes that means writing absolute garbage, digging out what works, and melding it together. Other times, you get it on the first try. More often, you shuffle around phrases, replace a word or two, delete a comma and add it back again.


Those micro decisions we make add up, and none more so than the words we choose.


Terminology matters for a lot of reasons:

  • Consistency - don't confuse your users by having multiple names for one feature or item

  • Readability - don't use fancy or long words because they sound impressive; nine times out of ten, simpler is better

  • Conciseness - don't say more than you should; what does the user need to know at this point in time?

There's a lot to consider when writing, but at some point you have to mute Slack, turn on your focus music, and stare at the blank page. Knowing what you need to say, and the terms that can help you say it, is half the battle.


Additional terminology resources:

- The art of conversation mining

- Creating an internal dictionary

- Using plain language

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