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UX Writing

Follow these guidelines to write clear, concise, and helpful content

Our words aren’t there to be read, savored, and appreciated, but to pass unremembered while they help get somebody to the thing they want. – Torrey Podmajersky in Strategic Writing for UX

When to start writing

Writing starts when design begins.

The purpose of UI text is to meet two goals: our business objectives and user goals. Like the start of any design project, ask any questions necessary to define the problem.

Who are the users?

This can help you identify the amount of information necessary in the text, the desired tone, industry terms they might be familiar with, if translation is important etc.

Who will approve this text?

Ask the PM to identify the people who should be the approvers for text to avoid irrelevant arguments and conflicting feedback

Where is this text placed on the UI?

Context is everything. What is the user doing? What are the surrounding components? How much space is available?

Voice

When voice is consistent throughout the experience, brand affinity is strengthened

ConfidentHelpfulHuman
ConceptsAssertive, direct, and builds trustProvide useful information and non-obtrusive learning material to aid in completing tasksConversational and realistic
VocabularyAvoid please. Avoid generalities like very, really, etc.Plain and accurate descriptionAvoid technical terms
VerbosityBe brief and begoneEnough to provide accurate information(not verbosity-specific)
GrammarPrefer single verbs to compound verbs(not grammar-specific)Simple sentences or phrases. Use present and future tense
PunctuationAvoid question marks and exclamation points(not punctuation-specific)Use contractions. Avoid terminal punctuation for single sentences. Avoid colons, semicolons, and dashes.
CasingTitle-case titles and headingsSentence case for anchors and body textSentence case for body text

Tone

Tone is the variability in our voice from one part of the experience to another

FriendlyDirectSerious
ConceptsWelcoming and slightly energeticStraightforward and to the pointHonest and sober, letting users know that something important is happening
Use casesOnboarding flows, success states, and congratulatory messages after transactionsAlerts, forms, errors, and other components that require information to be delivered to the userTransactions and any other scenarios that involve the movement of money or assets
Desired effectUser feels like Carta’s products and services are approachable and easy to engage withUser is aware of the information required for them to be successful and engaged with Carta’s products and servicesUser understands that Carta takes transactions seriously and instills additional trust in its products and services

Be Clear

Write text that is understandable and direct

Write simply

Use simple, direct language that is easy to understand

Share class for issuing options

When options are issued, this will be the share class used to issue them

Do

Be direct

Don't

Be long-winded when explaining a field

Share class for issuing options

Do

Be direct

When options are issued, this will be the share class used to issue them

Don't

Be long-winded when explaining a field

Write for your audience

User research helps identify areas where text changes could make a feature easier to use

Write accurately

Use call to actions (CTAs) that are accurate and specific to the task. Avoid Submit.

Be Concise

Write text that is short and scannable

Write for all reading levels

Use common language

Turn on to view your latest activities

True you can view your latest activities

Do

Use simple English

Don't

Sound like a robot

Turn on to view your latest activities

Do

Use simple English

True you can view your latest activities

Don't

Sound like a robot

Front-load text with the objective and communicate only essential details

Consent expires if not approved by the expiration date

Set an expiration date. If consent isn’t approved before the expiration date, it will be expired.

Do

Get straight to the point

Don't

Avoid being instructional. The UI should inform the user on what to do; reserve text for additional help.

Consent expires if not approved by the expiration date

Do

Get straight to the point

Set an expiration date. If consent isn’t approved before the expiration date, it will be expired.

Don't

Avoid being instructional. The UI should inform the user on what to do; reserve text for additional help.

Assign responsibilities for specific actions within Carta

Roles assign responsibility for specific actions within Carta to designated individuals. Users assigned to roles must have permission to access the company's account.

Do

Write only the essential details

Don't

Avoid overexplaining. Break down instructions throughout the experience.

Assign responsibilities for specific actions within Carta

Do

Write only the essential details

Roles assign responsibility for specific actions within Carta to designated individuals. Users assigned to roles must have permission to access the company's account.

Don't

Avoid overexplaining. Break down instructions throughout the experience.

Reveal details progressively and as needed

Reveal more information as user explores them. Avoid overwhelming users with multiple concepts at once.

Signatories are required to sign securities upon issuance

Signatories will be required to sign securities upon issuance. At least one person must act as a signatory at all times. Signatory privileges must be reassigned before a person can be deleted.

Do

Write only the essential details

Don't

Don't communicate details that are irrelevant to the step. Reveal them as needed.

Signatories are required to sign securities upon issuance

Do

Write only the essential details

Signatories will be required to sign securities upon issuance. At least one person must act as a signatory at all times. Signatory privileges must be reassigned before a person can be deleted.

Don't

Don't communicate details that are irrelevant to the step. Reveal them as needed.

Use numerals

Except if you are prescribing a different value to 2 separate concepts in the same sentence

Eg. Carta will send two test deposits within 3 days of confirming your account details

Add 2 signatories

Add two signatories

Do

Don't

Don't spell out numbers

Add 2 signatories

Do

Add two signatories

Don't

Don't spell out numbers

Avoid using too many stop words like this, in, at, with, from

User experience needs to flow. Stop words serve as natural reflection points which isn’t something you want when providing instructions.

Be Helpful

Write text that helps users complete their tasks

Front-load text with actionable item

Point out actions user needs to take in order to accomplish their task. Don’t assume that they know what to do.

Evaluate performance conditions first to partially cancel grant

Available only for option grants with fully evaluated performance conditions

Do

Surface the action needed for user to complete their task

Don't

Don't make them think

Evaluate performance conditions first to partially cancel grant

Do

Surface the action needed for user to complete their task

Available only for option grants with fully evaluated performance conditions

Don't

Don't make them think

Give users options

Let the user feel like they're in control, especially if an error occurs

Recover password

Do

Giving options when users input an incorrect password

Don't

Don't make the user feel like they're stuck

Recover password

Do

Giving options when users input an incorrect password

Don't

Don't make the user feel like they're stuck

Don't use phrases that suggest a lot of work for the user

Add information to spreadsheet

Download our spreadsheet and add your information to it

Do

Distribute instructions with the use of UI controls

Don't

Don't overload help text with multiple instructions, especially when it's repeated in UI controls

Add information to spreadsheet

Do

Distribute instructions with the use of UI controls

Download our spreadsheet and add your information to it

Don't

Don't overload help text with multiple instructions, especially when it's repeated in UI controls

Don't use please

Please adds nothing. Removing please makes your copy shorter and easier to scan.

Use consistent words

Use the same word to describe the same action across the platform

Refer to UI elements and controls by their label text

Do not state the type of element or control

Punctuation

Less is more with punctuation. Skip unnecessary punctuation.

Periods

Don't use periods in single line of text/sentences

Drag and drop file

Drag and drop files.

Do

Don't

Drag and drop file

Do

Drag and drop files.

Don't

By generating this document, you agree to Carta's Terms and Conditions

By generating this document, you agree to Carta's Terms and Conditions.

Do

Don't

By generating this document, you agree to Carta's Terms and Conditions

Do

By generating this document, you agree to Carta's Terms and Conditions.

Don't

Use periods in multiple sentences and any sentence followed by a link

Choose a note to convert to a stock certificate. Learn more ›

Choose a note to convert to a stock certificate Learn more ›

Do

Don't

Choose a note to convert to a stock certificate. Learn more ›

Do

Choose a note to convert to a stock certificate Learn more ›

Don't

Use the Oxford comma

This, that, and those

This, that and those

Do

Don't

This, that, and those

Do

This, that and those

Don't

Use contractions, but with care

You can be professional yet use a friendly voice. But be careful, a missing contraction can change the meaning of a word - its vs it’s.

Tense

Mostly use present tense

In most cases, use present tense unless there is no possible way the text can be written in present tense. Even when you would normally use future tense to express a statement in spoken English, that statement can usually be written in present tense.

Signatories are required to sign securities upon issuance

Signatories will be required to sign securities upon issuance

Do

Don't

Signatories are required to sign securities upon issuance

Do

Signatories will be required to sign securities upon issuance

Don't

Select where an increase in the option pool comes from

Select whether an increase in the option pool should happen using the pre or post money valuation

Do

Don't

Select where an increase in the option pool comes from

Do

Select whether an increase in the option pool should happen using the pre or post money valuation

Don't

Use past tense in messages to describe what the user has recently done

Shares were issued

Shares have been issued

Do

Don't

Shares were issued

Do

Shares have been issued

Don't

Use future tense to describe future events for users

Casing

Casing helps define the level of text hierarchy in a page

This is Title Case

Every word is capitalized, except articles, coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions of four or fewer letters when they aren't the first word or last word

Here is a small list of commonly lowercased words when writing in title case following the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines:

  • Articles: a, an, the
  • Coordinating Conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet
  • Short Prepositions: at, but, by, down, for, from, in, into, like, near, of, off, on, onto, out, over, past, till, to up, upon, with

Exception: if the title is longer than 3 words and reads like a sentence

This is sentence case

Only the first letter of the first word is capitalized

Casing usage

Title case usageSentence case usage
Page headersButtons
Modal headersBubbles
Block headersAnchors
Form section titlesField labels
Dropdown headersNavigation items
Table headers
List item titles
Block sections
All body text

Editing Tips

If the text is too long

P.S. It's always too long

Eliminate empty words like all, very, really etc.

Send stakeholders updates

Send all your stakeholders updates

Do

Don't

Send stakeholders updates

Do

Send all your stakeholders updates

Don't

Eliminate empty phrases like there are and this is

Attached to 18 securities

This is attached to 18 securities

Do

Don't

Attached to 18 securities

Do

This is attached to 18 securities

Don't

See if you can replace any words with a shorter, simpler one

Roles give permission to selected users for specific actions

Roles assign responsibility for specific actions within Carta to designated individuals

Do

Don't

Roles give permission to selected users for specific actions

Do

Roles assign responsibility for specific actions within Carta to designated individuals

Don't

Cut any details that don’t have to be made explicit

Manages details of board meetings

Board meetings require an administrator to create and edit meetings, set time and location, and add agenda items

Do

Don't

Manages details of board meetings

Do

Board meetings require an administrator to create and edit meetings, set time and location, and add agenda items

Don't

Avoid repeating same words in text and its related components

Looking for the full report?

Export PDF if you’d like to see the full report

Do

Don't

Looking for the full report?

Do

Export PDF if you’d like to see the full report

Don't

If the meaning isn't clear

If you're not sure, get some feedback

  1. Put your text in a mock where it's going to live

  2. Send it to a few people and ask them what they think your text means. If you can send it to users, that’s even better.

  3. Pay attention to any words they use that you can use

If the phrasing isn't good

When you know what must be said but can’t find a way to say it well, try rewriting in a different way

Swap passive and active voice verbs

Active
The board approved the option grants
Passive
Option grants were approved by the board

Turn a question into a statement, or vice versa

Statement
Amount to exercise
Question
How many options would you like to exercise?

Move the second clause into the first position

Option 1
Drop files here or choose files
Option 2
Choose files or drop files here

Emphasize nouns instead of verbs, or vice versa

Noun
Be an owner now
Verb
Own stocks now

Abbreviations

e.g. vs. i.e.

Don't use e.g. and i.e. interchangeably as they have different meanings

If you are using a parenthesis, you do not need a comma before e.g. or i.e. If you are not using a parenthesis, you do need a comma before e.g. or i.e.

Always add a comma after e.g. or i.e.

AbbreviationElaborationMeaningExample
e.g.exempli gratiaFor exampleDecide on the various types of equity you plan to offer, e.g., common shares, preferred shares, warrants, convertible notes, option grants, option pool.
i.e.id estIn other wordsThe Subscriber must be a non-U.S. plan (i.e., a plan established and maintained outside of the U.S. primarily for the benefit of non-US persons).

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