We want to be...

  • Direct and clear, but not aggressive or boring 
  • Conversational and friendly, but not childish or trendy
  • Positive and action-oriented, but not patronizing or oblivious to the reader's concerns

Apply the email test:

  1. Do you provide the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF), so that the reader knows what's coming?
  2. Is the text visually scannable?  Ie., do the key instructions pop out during a quick scroll-down?

To keep our voice on track, try these style suggestions....

  • Use contractions
  • Avoid jargon

  • Stay positive
    (error) Your password must be at least five characters long.  
    (tick) Use at least five characters for your password. 

  • Use active voice
    (error) The button is located at the top of the page. 
    (tick) Find the button at the top of the page. 

  • Address the reader directly
    (error) The user should log in with their email address. 
    (tick) Use your email address to log in. 

  • Avoid nominalization. This means transforming words that are not nouns into nouns (using difficulty instead of difficultinvestigation instead of investigate, etc.)
    (error) This guide is a demonstration of your account creation.  
    (tick) This guide shows how to create your account. 

We also recommend these terms and phrases: 

  • Use find, not locate
  • Use help, not assistance
  • Use let, not allow
  • Use click, not click on
  • Use go to, not navigate to
  • Use use, not utilize

  • To provide useful links, use learn more at, not for more information
    (error) See Create a Page for more information.  
    (tick) Learn more at Create a Page


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