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10 steps to better user-facing strings

1. Say it, then write it (aka, "Sound like a human")

Say out loud, to a friend or to yourself, what you want to tell the user. Write that down: it's going to be much more conversational than your first written attempt.

2. Focus on the user

The user is the star! One way to literally do this when writing is to set the user as the subject of the string ("You can do this action" instead of "Chrome has released this feature").

3. Be consistent

Are there any other pieces of related UI where we want to maintain consistency? We have patterns for permissions prompts, settings, etc. Also, consider whether there are others in our industry who do it well!

4. Include everyone

Use language that’s neutral to different cultures, races, genders, and age groups. Avoid colloquialisms and US-centric references.

5. Sound human

User-facing text should be useful, honest, and conversational. Look for words or phrases that sound formal or technical, and replace them with simple words and phrases. Plain language is for everyone, even experts, so this applies as much as possible to developer-facing spaces as well.

Contractions are encouraged; for example: "Linux won't remember a USB device after it's removed."

6. Speak simply

Ideally, UI text can be easily understood by a typical 11- or 12-year-old student. Some tips:

7. Be positive

Are you telling a user what can't be done? Try flipping it around and telling them what can be done, instead. You can describe limits with phrases like "up to 25 MB" or "when it's available."

8. Write globally

Will the string translate well?

9. Keep it short (aka, "Short beats good")

Does the string have to fit in a limited space? Keep in mind that English strings may increase by at least 30% after translation (test with an automated translation in Filipino, Greek, or German). Cut everything that isn't super critical.

10. Check the basics

Here are some answers to common string questions: