Writing Effective UI Text: Do’s and Don’ts

Software communicates with its users through User Interface (UI) text. Software developers anticipate what can go wrong and where, while coding. According to those anticipated situations, they raise errors or warnings, or display any intermediate informatory messages regarding progress or impediments. These messages are known as UI text in the field of Software Development.

UI Text Discussion

Technical Writers need to work together with the software developers and Product Managers for writing most effective UI messages. Here are some guidelines to write them.

Writing UI text: Do’s

  1. Write clear. Users should be able to comprehend the UI message easily. Put your best foot ahead to help users understand the developments in execution, or what went wrong in case of erroneous situation. State the issue in plain language with the concise use of words.
  2. Provide a supplementary message. It is written in continuation with the main error message when more details need to be conveyed during complex situation. The supplementary error message often helps users to understand why something went wrong.
  3. Write intuitive UI message. The message should give the users clue on what to do next and how they can restore the things to working order.
  4. Use small graphics with messages. A picture speaks thousand words. You can suggest the graphics designer to use relevant icons to depict the severity of unwelcomed situation. For example, a red-colored exclamation mark Error to indicate an error whereas an amber-colored exclamation mark Warning to indicate a warning. You can suggest some other graphic like Done to convey success.
  5. Watch out for your grammar. Keep a keen eye on contractions, well-placed punctuation marks, tense, spelling/typo mistakes, and so on. Correct grammar increases your software’s credibility.

For example, “The record has changed. Save it’s details?”. An incorrect contraction is used in the later sentence. It should be, “The record is changed. Save the record?”.

Writing UI text: Don’ts

  1. Don’t blame or order the user. For example, in the verge of using active voice, do not phrase an error message like: “You either did not connect router or you switched it off. Switch-on the router to be able to use Internet.”

Instead, say – “Router not found. Please make sure the router is connected and switched-on to be able to use Internet service.”.  The reliable policy is, inform about a situation in passive voice and suggest the action in active voice politely.

2.  Don’t leave any floating messages. There is a possibility of some unwanted messages getting displayed while executing. For example, see the one shown below:

Floating UI MessagesThe developer might have created some intermediate error messages for his/her convenience to test the status of certain device/situation while coding. If the developer misses out to remove such messages before creating a build, a Technical Writer can go through the file of error messages (if any) and help remove such floating messages.

3.  Neither use non-parliamentary words nor use jargon. Writing user-friendly doesn’t mean writing too casual that some users find hard to consume. Keep your organization’s brand culture in mind. Don’t phrase the UI messages using too casual tone with words like huff, hey, gotta, dude, or some non-parliamentary words. Also, avoid using jargon as non-technical users will find it difficult to understand.

For example, “Authentication failed.” is a jargon whereas “Incorrect password. Please enter the correct password.”, is user-friendly.

4.  Don’t confuse your users. Failing to anticipate the forthcoming situation clearly brings ambiguity in writing and in turn confusion in perceiving the UI message. There are some entertaining messages people have written. 😀 For example, see the message below:Confusing UI Message

What a frustrating message this is! 😀 Such messages do nothing to the users except for increasing their agony. 

Now see this, the oxymoron in the following message has made it quite humorous:


Ok, why would one write such message at first place? That was probably written by a developer who was testing the code snippet of killing a task forcefully.

An expert rightly says:

A user interface is like a joke. If you need to explain, it’s not that good.”

Appropriate UI text makes the software engaging in the right way, makes the software easy to use, and holds the brand image of the organization high in user’s mind. I trust you agree. Happy UI-text writing! 🙂


Content Writing, Content Marketing, and Copy Writing

If you noticed, I have written ‘and’, not ‘versus’; while trying to compare Content Writing with Copy Writing. The reason is, they have a common objective. Copy Writers work mainly for Advertising, which is a portion of Marketing. If you consider Marketing is a whole pizza, then you can see Advertising as a slice of a pizza. 

What is Content Writing?

Content Writing is writing the meaningful content on a paper or a web page. This post is nothing but you are reading the content that I wrote in this blog post.

What is Content Marketing?

When it comes to presenting and establishing a business on Internet, the Content Writing involves writing for business projection, which is called Content Marketing. Simply put, in Content Marketing you write content to market a business.

Content Marketing is intended to make the readers understand the business brand, its products or services, objectives,  ethics, and overall brand culture. The persuasive and engaging content written for a business website positions its brand prominently in the marketplace and builds the sense of reliability about it in the readers’ mind.

You can see it like – The content written is used for the purpose of marketing but they don’t call it as a Content Marketer or Content Marketing Writer. Content Writing is the term they use most widely.

Similarities between Content Writing and Copy Writing

They both are intended for marketing. They both are essential to promote a business or a brand.

Copy Writing = Advertising a brand and/or its offers.

Content Writing = Forming a relationship between the readers and a brand by providing content about the brand that the readers require and value.

What Does a Content Writer Write?

A Content Writer writes about a brand’s objective and mission, the range of its products and offers, brand ethics, and  culture, blogs, articles, reviews, etc.

On a broad perspective of Marketing, a Content Writer writes everything that is required to write for an online presence of a business such as the Official Website Content, Press Releases, White Papers, Company Newsletters, Sales Letters, and Corporate Blogs; to name a few.


If the objectives of Copy Writing and Content Marketing are same, then

What is the Difference between Content Marketing and Copy Writing?

A Copy Writer attracts readers’ attention and tries to sell or promote a product/service through his crisp words. A Copy Writer is responsible to generate interest and excitement about the product/service in readers’ mind so that they either buy it or explore the brand. A Copy Writer needs to be brief on the use of words while creating catchy, simple, and to-the-point copies. Copy Writers need to be Marketing Haiku poets 😀 who can create a copy with fewer words and more meaning.

A Copy Writer announces to the readers and a Content Writer engages them.

Unlike a Copy Writer, a Content Writer writes as elaborate as required. For example, for an online educational website a Content Writer writes tutorials, question papers, question-answers, FAQs, etc.; whereas, for a retail website, he writes about the products or services, offers, buying and returning policies, etc.

A Content Writer is responsible to write engaging content for a brand so that the readers spend more and more time on the brand’s website. The Content Writing needs to help the business to convey the right information about the business.

Writing Elements Content Marketing Copy Writing
Tone Formal or Casual Mostly Casual or personal to make it friendly
Vocabulary Technical on requirement + Generic Generic
Audience Wide Wide
Writer’s Viewpoint Subjective Subjective


Thematic or Alphabetical. Random



Highly accurate Non-damaging inaccuracy is forgiven
Structure Information is organized by friendly UI such as Menu Items, Tabs, Image  Buttons, or Hyperlinks. It contains Images, Tables, and Charts. The graphical elements are added to support the textual information, to highlight the product/service features, and to add a visual appeal. A Marketing Copy contains brief textual information with Images. The graphical elements are added to capture readers’ attention to add a visual appeal.
Tools Used Text/HTML Editors, Browsers, Keyword Search Tools, Adobe® Creative Suite, Image Editing and Processing Tools, Dictionary, Plagiarism Checkers, Grammar Checkers, Brand Book, Web Hosting Services, and Cloud Storage. Keyword Search Tools, Business Jargon and Rhyming Words Search tools, Dictionary, Text Editors, Image Editing and Processing Tools, Copy Evaluation tools, Brand Book, and Cloud Storage.
Creativity To a Large Extent Absolute
Output Format Web Page/Website Copy
Objective To inform more about the Product/Service and explains the brand as a whole.

Introduces the readers to a brand and its offers, and generates their interest to explore the brand further.

To sum it up,

If you need to engage the readers on your website by providing him pieces of worthwhile content, look for a Content Writer. If you need to inform the readers about what you sell and offer, and provoke them to know more about your brand, then approach a Copy Writer.

Technical Writing versus Copy Writing

There are more differences than similarities between Technical Writing and Copy Writing when it is the matter of their objectives. Being a Technical Writer myself and having known what my advertising acquaintances write, let me explain what is Copy Writing first and then the differences between the two writings.

What is Copy Writing?

Copy Writing is a writing style intended to advertise or sell a product or a service. In the context of Copy Writing, a copy is a piece of text written to sell and/or promote a product or a service.

A Copy Writer writes to bring a reader to try a product demo, sign a mailing list, subscribe to the corporate website or follow their blog, purchase a product, or call a service provider.

What Does a Copy Writer Write?

A Copy Writer writes Flyers, Billboards, eMail or print Adverts, Email Campaigns, Lyrics for radio/TV Jingles, Scripts for TV/Radio Adverts, and Email Letters; to name a few. They write copies for both print and electronic media.

Difference between Technical Writing and Copy Writing

The fundamental difference lies in the objectives of Technical Writing and Copy Writing.

Technical Writing is mainly concerned with explaining. It involves:

  • Informing – What, When, Where, Who, and Why.
  • Instructing – How to.

Copy Writing is oriented towards:

  • Encouraging the reader to buy a product or avail a service.
  • Promoting a product or a service.

The writing style and tone in Technical Writing are different from that of  Content Writing.

A Technical Writer describes the technical information to the readers by considering the level of readers’ education and experience. Any vague terms like more, sometimes, many, etc., don’t appear in technical documents. A Technical Writer needs to write precisely how much more, at what specific times, or exactly how many. A Technical Writer needs to write by confining to a specific vocabulary and formatting rules strictly. The language in Technical Writing is very straightforward. This turns any technical document quite boring for a common reader.

For example, only a mechanical engineer or an automobile engineering student would be interested to read gear motor operation manual. A common reader deviates from a technical professional in education and life experience. The prior does not require an elaborate and specific technical information that the latter does. Since technical professionals are a subset of the people in general, the audience of a Technical Writer is limited.

Copy Writing

A Copy Writer considers all his readers as prospective buyers. Since a copy is intended for a large audience of varied demographics, he can use words or phrases that contain generic terms such as highest, largest, cheapest, anything, etc. A Copy Writer uses persuasive language and writes naturally with a  conversational tone. A Copy Writer needs to write in a friendly manner to reach to the maximum number of readers on a personal level and provoke their interest in the product or service he is writing for. Hence to a large extent, the content of the copy becomes interesting for a common reader. Writing a brief copy skillfully that can grab readers’ attention and compel the reader to engage with the business is a challenge in Copy Writing.

Here is a crisp comparison between Technical Writing and Copy Writing:

Element Technical Writing Copy Writing
Tone Always Formal Casual and Entertaining
Vocabulary Specific Generic
Audience Limited Wide
Writer’s Viewpoint Objective Subjective


Alphabetical, Chronological, Logical, or Thematic. Random



Highly Accurate, inaccuracy is not tolerated Non-damaging inaccuracy is forgiven
A Technical Document often contains Headings of multiple levels, Table of Contents, Images, Tables, and Charts. The graphical elements are added to support the textual information. A Marketing Copy contains brief textual information with Images. The graphical elements are added to capture readers’ attention to add a visual appeal.
Tools Required Adobe® Technical Communication Suite, Text Editors, Image Editing Software, Screen Capturing Tools, Dictionary, Cloud Storage. Adobe® Creative Suite, Keyword Search Tools, Business Dictionary, Text Editors, Rhyming Words Search, Basic Design, Image Editing, and Copy Evaluation Tools, Cloud Storage.
Inherent Qualities Required Ability to grasp technical information quickly, Ability to simplify complex information, Flair for writing, An eye for detail, Command over language, Straightforwardness is a plus. Salesmanship, Ability to observe and understand people’s nerve, Sense of aesthetics and humor, Liking for Social Media, Wide life-vocabulary, Command over language, Sense of Humor is a plus.
Creativity Almost nil Absolute
Required in Product-based and Service-based Organizations Advertising, Online B2B, and B2C Organizations
Output Format Document Copy

To sum it up:

It’s all up to your objectives for your organization. If you need to explain some complex information to your in-house audience or otherwise, reach out to a Technical Writer. If you need to grab the readers’ attention to what you sell and provoke them to add to your organization’s revenue, then approach a Copy Writer.

How to Avoid Plagiarism?

The industries working in content development, advertising, or product design and development look for not only creativity but also originality. Plagiarism is disrespected in all the fields ranging from academics, art, engineering, and science. To stand out from the crowd, your creation needs to be distinctive and unadulterated from plagiarism. Here comes an obvious question: How to avoid plagiarism?


Short Practical Tips to Avoid Plagiarism

Here are some tips on how to avoid plagiarism:

  • Plan Your Time in Advance. Creativity needs investing time for deep thinking in an out of the beaten path manner. Planning of time enables you to think in an appropriate direction. If you use your time wisely, no need occurs to hastily copy and paste. You do not miss out any minor details or leave any silly errors when you have adequate time in hand before writing or designing.
  • Be Yourself. Know the topic. Understand what exactly you need to create. Understand the audience for whom you are going to create and then create it in your own way. Project your own ideas. When you do not plagiarize the ready made creations out there, your own creation can turn out as unique as you are. 🙂
  • Appreciate. Whenever you find others’ creative work appealing and compelling, appreciate its creator then and there. This habit molds your mind to admire others’ creativity wholeheartedly and respect their intellectual property.
  • Live with the Presence of Mind. Real life offers unique experiences and one can learn a lot while living with the presence of mind. Observe. Notice the details. Read a lot. Build your vocabulary. Know the shades of word meanings and colors. Build your own viewpoints. Keep yourself tuned to the latest updates in your domain. This attitude of getting the inputs from surroundings can help you generate your own distinct ideas, and eliminate the temptation to plagiarize.
  • Acknowledge. Last but not least, if you absolutely need to take the inspiration from others’ creation, acknowledge the creator in your work. If you need to use others’ creation directly, take the creator’s permission before you use it. Understand how to acknowledge or cite others’ work and then cite the original creator in your work.

Am I missing on any point? If you think I do; you are welcome to share. 🙂

Plagiarism: The Intellectual Property Theft

It was 15th January, the Indian Army Day. Since it was Sunday morning, I was little easy on the daily work. I started going through my Facebook posts. All the Facebook groups, communities, and pages were pouring their greetings to the soldiers. I was browsing through plenty of them and oh dear! I was awestruck to see an image that I had clicked under someone else’s post!


Screenshot of the Plagiarized Image taken on HTC Desire 820

I remember, last year I had written a post on how it was my life being an army wife. I had described my personal experience as being one. I was looking for some relevant images which could add value to my article.


Screenshot of the Original Image from My Blog Post

I had clicked this picture when Arun was getting ready for the office. The morning light was just perfect and his actions too. I caught the moment in camera. I wrote the post, added this image, and published it.

It was something I had created. I had applied the best of my knowledge and skills of handling the camera and editing the image. And now about seven months later I saw this image being reused by someone, who did not have a courtesy to take permission, or give due credits to me while using it against his/her own post. I was little restless. 😦 Since it happened on Facebook, I contacted the Facebook team for help. Within a couple of hours, Facebook removed the post from the timeline of that community where the image was reused, and sent me a confirmatory e-Mail.

It was the case of Plagiarism, the term they frequently use in the field of creativity, designing, writing, and academics.

What is Plagiarism?

It is the activity of using or copying the Intellectual Property of a creator without taking the creator’s permission or acknowledging the creator’s work, and presenting it as one’s own.

What is Intellectual Property (IP)?

It is the property resulted out of human intellect and/or creativity. Intellectual property includes the following pieces of work:

  • Ideas, inventions, written thoughts, and patents
  • Books, quotes, articles, columns, and paragraphs
  • Pieces of translations into other languages
  • Novels for screenplays and movies
  • Recordings of music composition, narration, addresses
  • Architectural, industrial, commercial, or engineering designs
  • Pictures created using software, or captured by digital devices or analog cameras
  • Artworks such as sketches, paintings, and sculptures
  • Software code

Intellectual properties are protected under Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to ensure creator’s rights on his own property.

Why do People Plagiarize?

There are various reasons to why people plagiarize:

  • Lack of Knowledge – Some people do not know, what plagiarism is. They do it unknowingly. In such case, it can be said that it is an innocent or accidental plagiarism.
  • Lack of Creativity – Not everyone is creative enough to generate own ideas. Some people need to borrow others’ pieces of work or take inspiration from others’ creations.
  • Laziness – Some people are lazy. They find it easy to open a search engine, take the most appropriate piece of work, paste it in their own work, and present it as theirs. According to them, who will invest time and efforts in studying the topic or thinking out of the box? 😀
  • Carelessness – Some people absolutely know what plagiarism is, but they don’t have hearts broad enough to acknowledge the creativity of the original creator. Or they are not bothered to acknowledge others’ work when they copied. It is called intentional or deliberate plagiarism.

How can I Detect Plagiarism?

There are various online tools available to detect plagiarism. They require you to submit a piece of text or the entire written work and produce a report. They are very helpful for educators, teachers, journalists, and the organizations working in the domains of publishing, e-learning, and web content development. Some plagiarism checking tools are free and the others are paid. Whatever tool you select to use, it is worth it.

Why Plagiarism is not a Good Practice?

It is very easy to get into plagiarism these days due to availability of enormous information on Internet that the powerful search engines bring up in milliseconds. But falling prey to plagiarism is not a good. Plagiarism is associated to academic dishonesty. The plagiarizer knows deep in his mind that it is not his own creation. It limits his creativity as well as questions his credibility, annoys the original creator, and deceives the consumer.

Plagiarism has its own legal consequences. The results of plagiarism can range from having to pay a monetary fine to a period of imprisonment. Either or both of the results can destroy a plagiarist’s professional reputation.

Plagiarism might save one’s efforts and time but it cannot save one’s skin. After all, it is stealing. It is better to not to participate in this unethical activity of stealing others’ creations.

Technical Writing versus Creative Writing

When some of my non-IT acquaintances come to know that I work as a Technical Writer, their question goes like, “What do you write?”. Indeed a good question. I write user manuals, employee orientation manuals, step-by-step procedures of setting up or troubleshooting some system, and the things alike. Their next question follows, “Oh, then don’t you write stories?” All I can say is, may be they didn’t pay attention to the word technical.

Since our conversation involved technical writing as well as a reference to creative writing, I try to throw light on these two writing styles.


Technical writing and creative writing both are audience oriented writing styles, which require writing talent as well as critical thinking. Yet, how are these two styles are different from each other? Let us know about them one by one.

What is Technical Writing?

Technical writing is the manner of simplifying and presenting any complex information in such a way that it is understandable and usable by the people who need it. The people for whom this information is presented are called target audience. The objective of Technical writing is to inform the target audience about facts or to instruct them on how to set-up or fix something.

It almost always uses formal tone of language. That means a technical writer uses Dear Sir in place of Hi Dude, contact instead of get in touch with, and inform in place of tell. 🙂 It is not just about using formal and precise words. It comes with a set of rules regarding grammar, language, formatting, and presentation.

Technical writing can be either online or offline. It refers styling guide, specialized vocabulary, and narrates things quite straight forward.

Examples of Documents Prepared by Technical Writers

System Reference Manuals, User Manuals, Product Specification Documents, Troubleshooting Guides, Reports, White Papers, Online or Offline Help, and Case Studies are few important examples of the documents prepared by technical writers.

Who Uses the Documents Prepared by Technical Writers?

A large number of professionals and general users refer to the documents prepared by technical writers. For example, engineers refer design specifications for some mechanical, electrical, or electronic component. Software testing professionals use test plans for code testing. System operators refer to instruction manuals. Marketing professionals use reports for planning their marketing campaigns. Management team of a business refers reports and white papers for major decision-making. Software application users request help on the software which they can induce by pressing F1 key. Last but not least, general audience refers to the user manuals to know how to use or set-up their newly purchased device.

What Does it Take to Become a Technical Writer?

To become a technical writer one needs to have related education, skills, knowledge of document types and the rules for creating reliable documents. One needs to have flair for writing and a sound understanding of three vital things: subject, objective, and the target audience. It is also required to understand the system thoroughly to be able to provide any information or instructions to its potential users.

Command over working language, knowledge of any foreign language(s) other than English, graphics tools, and image processing applications, handling Content Management System (CMS), knowledge of editing a website are some vital requirements to become a proficient technical writer.

How is it Like Being a Technical Writer?

As a technical writer I develop the documents that go through the Document Development Life Cycle (DDLC), which is similar to any product development life cycle. There is a lot of unorganized information to handle in the form of numbers, technical terms, definitions, procedures, charts, and all factual data. My work involves interacting with Subject Matter Experts (SME) for important inputs regarding the subject. It also includes dealing with graphic designers for images and infographics, or creating them myself. At times I need to handle various types of media such as audio and video.

I conduct self-review on my own work, as well as ask my colleagues to conduct a peer-review from the perspective of a new reader or an examiner. Reviewing enables to figure out and remove any loopholes in the written work. Finally, I compile and present the information in such a way that the users can access it quickly.

While being in the shoes of a technical writer, I may or may not be working on a technical subject, but I work on a subject technically.

The 7 C’s of Technical Writing

Technical writers develop their documents by adhering to the following seven rules or rather, guidelines:


Leaving no confusion for the readers. Removing ambiguities and doubts.


Removing grammar mistakes, factual errors, or typo errors before the readers reveal them. Presenting accurate information always.


Using brief and precise words. Replacing lengthy phrases with single words without losing essence of the subject.


Using uniform terminology and style of formatting throughout the document or across multiple inter-related documents.


Organizing and connecting the pieces of information seamlessly. Afterall, it should make sense to the target audience.


Providing all required information within the predetermined scope.


Working professionally to provide high quality content.

The beauty of technical writing lies in simplifying information for the consumption of others. Technical writing develops a person to be very meticulous and makes not to settle for anything less as far as the quality and presentation are concerned. 🙂

Now let us see,

What is Creative Writing?

It is a style of writing about a subject creatively so that the reader or listener indulges in to it. The objective of creative writing is either to entertain or to educate the audience.

Creative writing uses prose with informal or casual tone. This style of writing is not governed by any set of strict rules regarding grammar or language. The writer has ample freedom of imagination and narration. Creative writing involves use of artistic phrases, poetic devices, and story writing elements, which themselves are the topics of great length.

It is accessed by general audience because people of any age can read books, go through poems, or watch plays and movies with great scripts. Creative writing uses general vocabulary and is descriptive. Unlike technical writing, it can involve use of slang if the situation or culture being portrayed, or characterization demands.

Examples of Creative Writing

Diary, Poems, Plays, Shayari, Stories, Fictions, Autobiographies, Novels, Essays, Comic Strips, and Scripts and Dialogues of movies are some examples of creative writing.

What Does it Take to Become a Creative Writer?

To become a creative writer, one needs a great deal of observation, knowledge of the subject, and writing talent to put everything together into words. One needs to generate engaging content, which compels readers to attend uninterruptedly. A good grip over language, employing one’s creative abilities and leveraging the power of words to influence and modify emotions of readers, listeners, or viewers are some of the vital qualities a creative writer should possess.

A creative writer is capable of portraying a world through either own imagination or experience, and taking the audience on the trip to that world in their minds; sitting at a place.

Here is a brief comparison:


Writing Elements Technical Writing Creative Writing
Tone Formal Casual
Vocabulary Specific Generic
Audience Targeted General
Writer’s Viewpoint Objective Subjective
Place for Emotions Nil Ample
Information Organization Alphabetical, Chronological, Logical, or Thematic. Random

To conclude,

Technical writing and creative writing can be viewed as two portions of the same day a professional person spends. During the office hours, a professional person refers to what the technical writers produced for him and during his leisure time, he seeks for what the creative writers around the world prepared for him. 🙂