UX writing

How to use voice and tone guidelines as a UX writer

If you’re new to writing, voice & tone can feel confusing. Learn how to use voice & tone guidelines with a real-life example.
How to use voice and tone guidelines
In: UX writing

Maybe you built fancy voice and tone guidelines, or maybe you joined a company that already has voice and tone guidelines. How do you use them?

If you’re new to writing, this can feel confusing. How do you write using a personality other than your own?

Here’s what I recommend:

Start by applying the product voice:

  1. Write everything down in your voice first. It’s important to not filter yourself as you’re working to get the thought out.
  2. Once you have the thought on (digital) paper, bring out your voice chart.
  3. Run your microcopy down your voice chart like a checklist. At each voice attribute, look at the example, and see if your microcopy sounds similar, or if you can edit your microcopy to be on-point.
  4. Once you’ve checked and optimized your microcopy against all your voice attributes, it’s time to move over to tone…
Not sure what product voice is? Check out the blog most on product voice and tone.

Then apply the tone:

  1. Pull out your tone map, and pinpoint where this particular event falls on the map.
  2. Then, look at your tone spectrum, and think what tone would help the product most empathetically communicate the message.
  3. Make any edits accordingly, and then run through this list one more time to check yourself :)

Over time, this will become natural. Pinky promise.

An example of applying voice and tone

We’re going to write that push notification letting users know they still need to set up their account.

Here’s what I’d write, just in my own voice:

Hey, Christopher! Your account isn’t finished yet. Tap to finish your account, so you can start saving and increasing your credit score today.

Now, I’d run my copy against the voice chart and make edits accordingly. Again, here’s the voice chart:

voice and tone guidelines

And here’s my voice chart-optimize push notification:

Christopher, finish setting up Super for big-time rewards and a bump in your credit score. Tap to make it happen.

Voice chart-optimization, complete ✅

Now, it’s time to check for tone. To do that, I pull out my handy tone map:

voice and tone guidelines

And I see that push notifications land on being fun and concise. Taking another look at my push notification copy, here are the edits I made to make it more in line with the tone map:

Christopher, finish setting up Super for big-time rewards and a credit score bump. Tap to make it happen 🕺

Tone map-optimization, complete ✅

Now, I’m going to pull out my hand tone spectrum and see what this situation calls for:

voice and tone guidelines

This is a time to motivate the user, and here are the changes I made to do that:

Christopher, finish setting up Super for big-time rewards and a credit score bump. Tap to make it happen now 🕺

I deemed the existing copy already motivational, but I added “now” to get it an extra punch.

Then, I’d re-run through the checklist before calling it ready to ship 🚢

Happy UX writing 🖖

Written by
Slater Katz
As founder of The UX Gal, my mission is to make learning UX writing fantastically-simple and landing a job easy. I've held UX writing jobs at companies like Netflix, Fitbit, Verizon, Afterpay, & more.
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