Posted on: 16 12 2021

10 Rules of UX Writing

Written by
Sonny Evans
Reading time: 6 mins

The written word is ubiquitous in the modern human experience. Whether it's the first ‘Snooze’ button you press on your phone in the morning or the ‘Exit’ Netflix button before you end the day, our collective experiences are punctuated by written language. As a Junior Copywriter, I’ve naturally begun to pay closer attention to these moments.  There are not always direct calls-to-action, gripping headlines or creative wordplay when it comes to our interactions with software and digital systems, but there is still a human process and careful thought behind the ‘Snooze’ and ‘Do you wish to continue?’ buttons, as innocuous as they may seem. 

Enter the UX Copywriter, a position I was admittedly unfamiliar with until stumbling across a blog post UX Writing: web design’s latest ‘unicorn skill’ from my colleague Jake.  The post gives a great introduction and outline to UX writing, so I recommend giving that a read for a good introduction to the topic. For this post we'll take the discussion forward and dive into some of the top rules to keep in mind when writing for digital experiences and interfaces. 

10 rules for UX writing 

Whilst UX writing is functional and direct by its very essence, it would be shortsighted to exclude any broader, creative guidelines that are integral to any form of effective writing.  

With that in mind, what follows is split between technical tips (tenses, grammar, syntax) on the mechanics of writing and broader creative concepts to apply to your UX writing. We're looking at this through the lens of standard British English and some of what we discuss won't apply in other languages, but several of the principles discussed are still relevant when writing in languages other than English.

1) Verbs, giving a bit of direction

Imperatives and active verbs are your new best friends. This is first on the list as it’s the quickest way to create direct and concise UX writing. It’s crucial to consider using specific verbs for labeling buttons and interactive elements of a UI —the age-old example being:  


‘Do you wish to save your changes?’ 

‘Yes or No’ versus ‘Save or Discard’  

Although both designate the same thing, the former ‘Yes or No’ is vague and creates a clunky and unnecessary thought process for the user—with potentially frustrating consequences. This is also nearing the territory of double negatives, but more on that later.

2) Prepositions, communicating change and movement

When writing for experiences within digital spaces, it’s difficult to communicate change and movement as there is no physical or concrete process to signing up to a dating app, purchasing a gift or transferring money. But a successful UX needs to signify to the user that a process is complete. How does one achieve this with copy, though? Prepositions. By tweaking the words used to relate to space and time in a sentence, it’s possible to evoke a sense of change and outcome for a process. For example:  


‘Sync your files to multiple platforms’  


‘Sync your files across multiple platforms’  

Although this is a small change, using ‘across’ adds more specificity and creates more three-dimensional imagery in the user's imagination.  Contrary to what my (and probably your) English teacher preached, there’s also value in ending a sentence on a preposition especially when it comes to buttons in UX. For example:  


‘Register’ or ‘Sign in’  


‘Sign up’ or ‘Log in’  

The first example, though valid, could be confusing for the user. But ‘Sign up’ and ‘Log in’ are both visually balanced and distinguishable buttons that create a more intuitive UI. All these examples are also effective by beginning on imperative verbs, as per Rule #1.  

3) Split infinitives, keeping it focused

Here's another one of the deadly syntax sins my English teacher reinforced religiously, but expert linguists have pointed out that the split infinitive has appeared in works as early as Chaucer. That said, it might actually be a useful rule to follow in the case of UX writing.

‘File successfully saved’ 



In this example, removing the adverb completely is actually more directive and to the point, giving more space for a sleek and attractive UX design.  That means that while split infinitives are not the end of the world, often they can be simplified for the sake of brevity and giving a clear directive.

4) Voice,  active before passive 

In English, the passive voice is often unnecessarily indirect, unclear and takes up precious space in a user interface. Why say something in 100 characters when you could say it in 50 or less?  

‘Use the add to cart button when you are ready to buy the item’ 


‘Click add to cart button to buy’  

This links back once again to Rule #1, but is important enough to reiterate.   Clarity and simplicity are paramount when creating intuitive digital experiences and interfaces, and the active voice gives the 

5) Capitalization  

In UX writing, it’s the intricate details that count. Capitalization is particularly important to convey messages to the user but should be approached with caution. UNNECESSARY USE OF ALL CAPS can actually reduce readability for users because, from a design perspective, there are fewer edges and less contrast to the text. 


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6) Double negatives

This one is last from the list of more technical or grammatical rules and it's probably the most important of them all: double negatives. Double negatives are a headache and confuse the user decision making in UI. 

‘I don’t want to unsubscribe’  


‘I don’t want to keep my subscription'  

7) Be Human  

A number of digital businesses have created interesting alternatives to the dusty old 404 Error page. The occasional 404 Error is inevitable, but why not leverage them as an opportunity to improve the overall customer experience?



Don't forget that what was once a dull and even irritating dead-end for UX can be a fruitful and exciting opportunity for a page of message that helps users to get where they need to be. 

8) Humor  

Although it's important to create interesting and 'human' UX copy, remember that accessibility and brevity is everything. If you've slipped a cheeky pun, idiom or play on words into your UX copy, keep your audience in mind especially if they're international as your comedic ingenuity might not translate.

9) Show not tell  

Perhaps a cliché and definitely something my creative writing lecturer said one too many times. But if you can convey a message in fewer words without sacrificing meaning, that's a win for you and the user. 


Telling rather than showing can feel bulky and awkward, as is the case with the 'deleted message' notification in WhatsApp. 

10) Think visually 

This might go without saying, but UX writing is the perfect opportunity to create powerful results with text and design that work together. Remember that you're not writing plain blocks of copy, but for an enticing user interface. 


There are a number of differences between the craft of copywriting and UX writing, but the overarching principle remains clear; be concise. At Luxid, we are proud to have both talented designers and copywriters who work together to create fantastic end results. If you'd like to see more of our work or discuss working with us, please feel free to reach out to us. 

References & further reading:


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