Style Writing

Writing

Clear, accurate, and concise text makes interfaces more usable and builds trust. Strive to write text that is understandable by anyone, anywhere, regardless of their culture or language.

In addition to these guidelines, be sure to consult guidelines for specific UI elements, such as Errors, Dialogs, Settings, and Data formats

Language Expand and collapse content An arrow that points down when collapsed and points up when expanded.

Speak to the user as “you”

Speak directly to users as “you,” not “me.” Don’t put words in the users’ mouths, with phrases that use “I” or “my.”

Exceptions include:

  • Some legal opt-ins: “I agree to follow the UX Writing Guidelines.”
  • Some Google Play categories, such as "My music" or "My books"

Your account

Do.

My account

Don't.

Don’t refer to “we”

Focus on the user and what they can do with your app, rather than what you or your app is doing for the user.

Get started with these popular posts on Google+.

Do.

To get you started, we’re showing you popular posts on Google+.

Don't.

One exception is when a human actually does take action for a user, such as reviewing an appeal or responding to a suggestion. Here, the use of “we” is appropriate and more personable.

We’ll review your appeal and respond within a few days.

Do.

Your appeal will be reviewed, and you will receive a response within a few days.

Don't.

Be concise

The best UI text is written in small, scannable segments to assist in navigation and discovery.

Send money to anyone in the US who has an email address. It’s fast, easy, and free.

Do.

Send (and receive) money with friends and family in the US with an email address. It’s a two-step process with little-to-no latency and there aren’t any charges for the recipients of the money.

Don't.

Keep your sentences and phrases short, with as few concepts as possible.

Read the instructions that came with your phone.

Do.

Consult the documentation that came with your phone for further instructions.

Don't.

Use simple word forms

Use active verbs (“the dog bit the tree”) not passive verbs (“the tree was bitten”), except when the passive is shorter and simpler (“tree bitten”) or when there is no clear subject.

Write in the present

Use the present tense to describe product behavior. Avoid using future tense to describe the way a product always acts.

When you need to write in the past or future, use simple verb forms.

Message sent

Do.

Message has been sent

Don't.

Write simply and directly

Use  simple, direct language that is easy for users to understand.

Save changes?

Do.

Would you like to save your changes?

Don't.

Use simple words that everyone knows

When choosing among synonyms, pick the simplest word.

Turn on Location History

Do.

Enable Location History

Don't.

Avoid terms that only industry insiders know, and don't rely on the names invented for UI features.

Preparing video…

Do.

Buffering…

Don't.

“Ok Google” isn’t supported on your phone

Do.

“Ok Google” is only supported on dual-core devices

Don't.

Generic terms like "slider" and "menu" are fine, but direct users to the labels on UI elements, not the kind of element (such as menu or button).

Click Continue

Do.

Click the Continue button

Don't.

Omit unnecessary phrases

You can skip many common introductory phrases and get right to the point.

Delete this photo?

Do.

Are you sure you want to delete this photo?

Don't.

Register to vote

Do.

You must register before you can vote

Don't.

Want to…

Do.

Do you want to…

Don't.

Use consistent verbs across the arc of an action

The framing concept of an action is typically a verb. Pick one and use it consistently across the micro-narrative of an action.

Remove photo

Do.

Menu item

Delete photo

Don't.

Menu item

Remove photo?

Do.

Dialog title

Remove photo from page?

Don't.

Dialog title

Remove this photo from this page?

Do.

Dialog text

Cancel | Remove

Do.

Dialog buttons

Cancel | OK

Don't.

Dialog buttons

Lead with the goal, not the method

If a sentence includes an action for the user to take and instructions for achieving it, start the sentence with that action.

To remove a photo from this album, drag it to the trash

Do.

Drag a photo to the trash to remove it from this album

Don't.

Reveal detail only as needed

Don’t burden the user with every detail and caution in the first interaction. Reveal increasing detail about features as the user explores them and needs the information.

Remove downloaded book?

Do.

Are you sure you want to remove this downloaded book? You won’t be able to access it unless you’re online.

Don't.

Never say “never”

Avoid “never” and other absolutes.

Your circle names aren’t shared

Do.

We’ll never share your circle names

Don't.

Text for buttons and related elements

Buttons appear in dialogs and as blue or underlined text.

Button

Usage

[ Action ]

See above guideline about using consistent verbs.

Back

Allows multi-step processes

Cancel

Cancels an action

Dismiss

Causes a message or dialog to disappear without any consequences

Done

Confirms the completion of a multi-step process

Got it

Causes a message or dialog to disappear without any consequences (similar to OK)

Learn more

Takes the user to additional content

Next

Takes the user to the next step of a multi-step process

No thanks

Allows a user to decline

Not now

Don’t use this abused phrase except in rare cases where the call to action in the dialog is essential to the functionality of the product, for legal reasons, or for another urgent reason.
Do not use “Not now” as a mechanism to avoid providing a “No thanks” option.

OK

Allows the user to confirm an action that’s relevant to the task at hand

Skip

Gives the user a way to avoid an interruption and proceed with a task

Tone Expand and collapse content An arrow that points down when collapsed and points up when expanded.

Be friendly, respectful, and focus on the user

Text in your UI should complement your visual UI: intuitive, efficient, casual, and trustworthy. Charm peeks through, but never upstages the user.

MyApp isn’t responding

Do you want to close it?

Do.

Sorry!

Activity in MyAppActivity (in the  MyApp app) is not responding

Don't.

Be humble

Don’t brag or over-promise. Reveal what a feature does, don’t say how great it is.

All your savings in one place

Do.

Great deals at places you’ll love

Don't.

More restaurant reviews

Do.

All restaurant reviews

Don't.

Be inviting

Focus on the benefits of each feature. Omit implementation details, caveats, and restrictions at the entry points to features (buttons, menu items, links, and promotions).

To save power, switch Location mode to Battery saving mode.

Do.

Manually control GPS to prevent other apps from using it.

Don't.

Be positive

Present information in a positive light: it’s reassuring.

Use 24 characters or fewer for file names.

Do.

Your file name must be less than 25 characters.

Don't.

Be essential

For every message, ask yourself: does the user really need to know this? Err on the side of letting users stay focused on their own tasks. Sometimes the most effective UI is no text at all.

Avoid messages that suggest that it’s surprising or unusual that a user’s simple action was successful.

Signing in...

Your phone is contacting Google. This can take up to five minutes.

Do.

Signing in...

Your phone needs to communicate with Google servers to sign in to your account. This may take up to five minutes.

Don't.

Capitalization & punctuation Expand and collapse content An arrow that points down when collapsed and points up when expanded.

Use sentence-style caps

Use sentence-style caps for all titles, headings, labels, menu items – any place where you might be tempted to use “Title-Style Caps.”

Avoid ALL-CAPS except where the material spec requires them, for example, the Button style.

Search settings

Do.

Search Settings

Don't.

SEARCH SETTINGS

Don't.

Capitalize product names only when referring to a product as a product

Don’t capitalize the things you create or work with when using that product.

Visit our Google+ page.

Do.

Visit our Google+ Page.

Don't.

Skip periods and other unnecessary punctuation  

For labels, hover text, setting labels, stacks of links, promos, and so on, avoid periods. This gives you the flexibility to mix sentences and sentence fragments, for example, in lists. It also reduces visual clutter and helps readers parse your text at a glance. Skip the colon after UI labels (“Share with” not “Share with:”).

Use a period or force fragments into full sentences where:  

  • You need to use more than one sentence – even if they’re short sentences.
  • You have a set of parallel labels where one of the set must be a sentence. Make them all full sentences and use periods (or question marks, etc.).
  • The sentence is part of a larger, more formal UI element, such as body text in a dialog.

Use contractions  

Don't make a sentence harder to understand just to follow this rule. For example, "do not" can give more emphasis than "don't" when you really mean it.

it’s, can’t, wouldn’t, you’re, you’ve, haven’t, don’t

Do.

it is, cannot, would not, it’ll, should’ve

Don't.

Avoid exclamation points  

Ask yourself, would someone shout (exclaim) that?

Welcome!

Do.

Learn about the new features of Calendar!

Don't.

Good job!

Do.

“1, 2, 3” not “one, two, three”

Use numerals in place of words for numbers.

One exception is when mixing uses of numbers: "Enter two 3s."

You have 3 messages

Do.

You have three messages

Don't.

Punctuation

Omit punctuation after phrases and labels to create a cleaner and more readable interface.

Use punctuation to add clarity or be grammatically correct.

Glyph/character

Description

Periods

.

Omit for fragments and single sentences in affordances like toasts, snackbars, butterbars, and labels. Do punctuate full sentences in body text, for example, in the body of dialogs.  

Place inside quotation marks (unless you’re telling the reader what to enter and it’s ambiguous whether to include the period).

Commas

,

Place inside of quotation marks.

Use the serial comma.

Exclamation points

!

Avoid exclamation points for anything you wouldn’t actually shout out loud (exclaim).

Colons

:

: or \u003A

Omit from labels, for example, in the labels for fields in a form.

Quotation marks

 

“ “ or \u201C

” ” or \u201D

‘ ‘ or \u2018

’ ’ or \u2019

Use real quotation marks, not the inch and foot symbols.

The right single quotation mark symbol is also used for apostrophes.

Never use the generic quotes ", ' or free-standing accents `, ´ (\u0022, \u0027, \u0060, \u00B4). These are never right for quotation marks, apostrophes, or primes.

Primes

′ or \u2032

and

″ or \u2033

Use prime (′) only in abbreviations for feet, arcminutes, and minutes. For example: 3° 15′

Use double-prime (″) only in abbreviations for inches, arcminutes, and minutes. For example: 3° 15′ 35″

Do not use generic quotes ", ' or free-standing accents `, ´ for primes.

Ellipses

 …

Option-;
…

Use to indicate an action in progress ("Downloading…") or incomplete or truncated text. No space before the ellipses.

Omit from menu items or buttons that open a dialog or start some other process.

Midline ellipses (three-bullet glyphs) are also used to represent numeric truncation and the redaction of sensitive data, such as credit cards.

Double angle brackets

 >>, << &laquo; or \u00AB

&raquo; or \u00BB

Omit from links or buttons that open another page or move to the next or previous step in a process.

Em dash

 

&mdash; or \u2014

Shift+Option -

Avoid using em dashes.

En dash

&ndash; or \u2013

Option+ -

Use an en dash instead of a hyphen to indicate a range, without spaces (in English).

Avoid using dashes to separate text. If you must use dashes for this purpose – like this – use an en dash surrounded by spaces.

Example of use with a range:
8:00 AM–12:30 PM
3–5 kg

Hyphen

-

Use hyphens to avoid ambiguity in compound adjective-noun or noun-participle pairs and in some prefixes.

For example:

anti-inflammatory
5-mile walk

Parentheses

(  )

Use parentheses only to define acronyms or jargon.

For example:
“Secure web connections are based on a technology called SSL (the secure sockets layer).”

Global writing Expand and collapse content An arrow that points down when collapsed and points up when expanded.

People of all ages, cultures, backgrounds, and education levels rely on the English versions of products. Many of the writing guidelines support writing for non-native English speakers and for localization (the translation and adaptation of content for international use). Simple, clear English makes it easy for anyone to understand your product.

This section focuses on how to write English in a way that makes products more useful in English and other languages around the world.

Example of Japanese writing

Example of Thai writing

Don’t use culturally specific idioms, metaphors, or examples

Culturally specific language can be difficult to translate and may be inappropriate in some locales.

Discover great offers

Do.

Snag great offers

Don't.

No offers left.

Do.

Bummer. There are no offers left.

Don't.

Great job!

Do.

You really hit it out of the park!

Don't.

Be careful with “left” and “right”

Interfaces for languages with right-to-left scripts may be mirrored when a product is localized.

In this example of a right-to-left (RTL) interface in Arabic, the interface is mirrored relative to English.

Example of a left-to-right (LTR) interface in English

Avoid gender ambiguity

English is one of the few languages that allows gender ambiguity (for example, “you can see their picture”). Most other languages must be more specific (“you can see his or her picture,” for example).

Be specific about gender whenever possible (his, her, and so on).

Write clear string descriptions

Provide clear descriptions of your strings as comments in the code. Linguists rely on context from descriptions to translate strings in a meaningful way to other cultures, beyond literal translations of English text.