UX writing: voice and tone

In UX writing, almost nothing is as important as the way we talk to our users. So voice and tone are always top of mind.

As a Principal Content Designer at Dell, I spend a lot of time explaining the importance of voice and tone to stakeholders, and then a lot more time explaining what the difference is between the two.

The Style Guide I’ve developed for the Services Design Team at Dell includes this excerpt:

What we say to our users is important, but how we say it also matters.

We want our users to feel engaged and supported. We want them to know that we’re on their side. And we want them to feel like they’re part of a real conversation, with a real person.

Voice and tone are an important part of this conversation.

The difference between voice and tone

Our voice is who we are. It doesn’t change. We are always a trusted colleague on the side of our customer. We’re there to help them get from point A to point B, and this holds true no matter what the situation is or what type of content we’re creating.

Our tone is how we speak to the user in a given context. It changes depending on the situation. For example: If a user has just accomplished something, our tone is congratulatory. If they’re stuck and trying to find help, our tone is calming and knowledgeable.

We’re always that helpful, supportive co-worker, but we alter our tone to address the user in the best possible way for each point in their journey.

Tone is something that requires a good understanding of specific context. As you start creating actual content, you need to start with an understanding of where the user came from, what they’re trying to accomplish, and what will happen next. Armed with this information, you can use your own judgment to determine how the user wants us to speak to them.

I’ve also created this voice chart, to help writers get their heads around the Services voice:

These are small but essential pieces of a much larger Style Guide I’ve written, to help writers on my team and beyond understand the basics before they get started with content development. It’s been my pleasure to provide this guidance and I’m proud of the end result.

To find out more about this resource, reach out anytime. I LOVE talking about this stuff!