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10 things UX writers hate to hear

Fake conversations, real situations

John Saito
Aug 20, 2017 · 3 min read

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to chat with UX writers from a bunch of different companies. Even though we work on completely different products, we face shockingly similar challenges.

Below is my attempt at capturing a few of the challenges we face as UX writers. None of these conversations are real, but they’re all based on real-life situations.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a UX writer, here’s a little preview.

1. “I just need one word”

Designer: “Hey, I need to come up with a label for this button. Can you help me out?”

Writer: “Sure. What does the button do?”

Designer: “Well, it sends a private message to everyone in the thread who hasn’t replied yet. Then it creates a separate thread with just those people. And that new thread doesn’t show up on their profile.”

Writer: “Okay. And there’s only room for one word?”

Designer: “Right. I just need one word.”

2. “Technical reasons”

Developer: “Because of technical reasons, we can’t change the system. You’ll just have to write some UI copy that explains how it works.”

Writer: “Can we at least show different messages for different scenarios?”

Developer: “Nope, can’t do that either.”

Writer: "Because of technical reasons?”

Developer: “Yep.”

3. “Punch it up”

CEO: “Yeah, I’m not really feelin’ it. Can you punch it up some more? Add an exclamation point or something.”

Writer: “But there’s already an exclamation point down here.”

CEO: “Yeah, just add a few more. It needs more pop. Don’t explain it. Exclaim it!”

4. “Legal disclaimer”

Product manager: “Legal says we need to add a disclaimer here. There’s a 0.0005% chance it won’t work as expected.”

Writer: “But nobody’s gonna read a disclaimer​ down there.”

Product manager: “Yeah, so in case you didn’t hear, Legal says we need to add a disclaimer here. Can you whip something up real quick?”

5. “Sounds funny”

Client: “I don’t like how this sentence sounds.”

Writer: “Oh, okay. Can you tell me more?”

Client: “I don’t know. It’s the words. They just sound kinda funny to me. Can you make it better?”

6. “Can’t localize it”

Localization: “Our translator is saying this term doesn’t exist in their language. Can you rewrite it?”

Writer: “But we’re using this term all over the—”

Localization: “Sorry, you’ll have to rewrite it. All of it.”

7. “It’ll only take a minute”

Coworker: “Hey, you’re a writer, right? Can you help me edit this one thing real quick? It should only take a minute.”

Writer: “Sure! How can I help?”

(5 hours pass)

Coworker: “Hey, still workin’ on those edits?”

Writer: (Typing and clicking furiously) “Uh, yeah… Just give me another minute.”

8. “What words?”

Stranger: “So what do you do?”

Writer: “I’m a writer. I write words that show up in Dropbox.”

Stranger: “Wait, Dropbox has words? What words?”

9. “More designers!”

Director: “Great news! We just hired 15 more designers!”

Writer: “Awesome! Does that mean we hired more writers, too?”

Director: “No writers, just designers.”

Writer: “Oh. So who’s going to write all the words?”

(Birds chirping in the distance)

10. “Because SEO”

Marketing: “According to our SEO research, these 8 keywords are really trending right now. Can you work these keywords into the homepage copy?”

Writer: “But we don’t use these terms anywhere in our product.”

Marketing: “Yeah, but SEO. Don’t you want to get more clicks?”

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