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What if My UX Copy Becomes a Meme?

Bad UX writing is just more fun.

You come across a horrible typo, then an error message that tries to be witty but comes across as insulting. You read an email that makes no sense. You find a key that doesn't show up as text, and a banner that has a horrible tone.

I've shared a few such instances myself. Learning what not to do is just as important as learning what to do. And as long as there's no shaming, it can be a harmless exercise.

But...what if my writing was shared?

What if something from my product gets shared and, heaven forbid, goes viral? What if everyone's saying have you seen that one notification or at least it's not as bad as that CTA I saw yesterday? How on earth could I salvage my dignity, my career?

A few thoughts prevent these fears from keeping me up at night.

I didn't write everything.

I take pride in my job, and I want my product to be perfect. But that's not realistic for any product. Not every piece of text will go through my hands, and it shouldn't. My team has learned the value of UX writing, and delegation is important. I'd rather someone take a crack at it and get ninety percent of the way there (and gain confidence in themselves and the craft of writing) than wear myself out looking at every line of code.

There's also such a thing as backlogs. Many companies have changes laid out for their copy ready to go, but are waiting for dev power or designer time before they can be pushed to production.

All that to say, a product is an evolving beast. It will never be final.

We're all human.

Well, maybe I did write or approve something that went into production. And maybe it isn't perfect.

Things get missed. Mistakes get made. That's true for every profession and every person. What's important is that I own it, and fix it when it's brought to my attention.

I'll throw in an aside here, too, to beg that we are gracious with typos. Listen: they happen. Yes, UX Writers should be detail-oriented. Yes, double and triple checking should be part of the process. But we're human, and a small mistake isn't enough reason to discount someone's professional ability.

I can still grow.

I'm confident in my abilities, but I still have a lot to learn.

I can be sure of my chosen direction, only to get feedback from a more senior writer (or even a more junior one, or stakeholders who aren't writers at all) that sheds new light on the problem.

I'm sometimes wrong, and that's okay. Even if every copy decision is thought-out, there's always a way to make it better.

Shaming isn't okay. Ever.

I already touched on this above, but let's go a step further. To be clear, I don't think there's anything wrong with sharing an example of copy for discussion. I sometimes post about such instances as case studies as deep-dives into why certain choices don't work.

That's different than, say, tagging the company or team (or, goodness, the writer herself) to purposely and personally call them out. Or posting just to be malicious and offensive.

It's also important to remember that many products don't have designated UX writers. The copy may have been written by a designer, PM, or dev, or even a junior writer. Saying that a writer did a bad job assumes by default that a writer was involved. That's just not always the case. Could the company have done better? Absolutely. But we can talk about what went wrong without placing specific blame.

You know what? It is funny.

If that day does ever come when a screw-up of mine makes the rounds, I hope I'm a good enough sport to see the humor it in. Because life is short, and I'm trying my best. As long as I make an effort to grow, and can back up my decisions in a reasonable way, there's nothing worth worrying about.


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