When writing for products that have a real impact on people, use transparent and simple language

Colorful mural of the words VOTE.
Colorful mural of the words VOTE.
Photo by Jennifer Griffin on Unsplash

I know I’m not the only one when I say that it was an exciting moment to receive my ballot in the mail. This is because the stakes feel higher than ever before, and I want my voice to be heard. It also meant I had a vote; a chance to color within the oval line with my choices, and an opportunity to make my voice heard, one bubble at a time.

I made a point to carefully consider each and every candidate and the state measures presented. This took a while. Hours, in fact, because the language wasn’t straightforward or clear and the information on the ballot lacked details providing context. I found myself questioning the way state measures were worded, both on the ballot and in the articles I found online. I often had to read out loud to try to gain understanding, break down paragraphs line by line to interpret state measures, and ask Google every question you can think of about the various issues. …


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I recently watched the movie Defending Your Life (1991) and learned that Meryl Streep is not only fantastic in dramas, but she’s excellent in rom-coms. I also learned that Defending Your Life is one of the greatest food movies.

In this movie, there are mentions and depictions of turkey with stuffing, hot dogs, salmon, glowfish, cheese omelet, roast chicken, cream-filled chocolate swans, sushi, pies, cheese on broccoli, shrimp, and, of course, pasta. In the world of Judgment City, where people’s lives are on trial, you can eat as much as you want without being affected at all. That means people can eat 30 shrimp without the consequences of high cholesterol. …


Specific words you use have an impact on people whether you realize it or not

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Illustration by Lauren Jessen

When you read the word designer, what comes to mind? Frank Lloyd Wright or Dieter Rams? Do you think of a costume designer or a graphic designer? Are you thinking of Vogue or Architectural Digest? Every word carries with it an association that varies from person to person based on personal experiences and context.

When writing for digital or physical experiences, the specific words you use can have an impact on users. Before attempting to find the right words, first make sure you have a deep understanding of who your target users are and how they think and behave.

Consider the associations of the words you use

Words are defined by their associations with other words. Be clear with what you want to say and use words that simply and clearly describe your intent. Because users’ reading levels and language proficiencies can widely vary, it’s important to know who your specific audience is and write for them. If you’re creating a product for the average person, there’s no need to say superfluous when you can use extra and still convey your message. …


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If I step into a bookstore, I will leave with a book. Guaranteed. My to-be-read pile is outrageous, but my justification is that I always have something to read! There’s no shortage of options. I’m constantly upping my books-read-per-year goals, and the best trick I’ve learned is to carry a book around with me everywhere. It’s a good reminder to read instead of immediately (and unconsciously) clicking into Instagram.

Tomorrow marks the first official day of winter, which means a fresh reading list and even more new stories. This fall I read 12 books, which averages out to four books per month. There was a wide variety of topics this season, but in reviewing this list, it’s clear that I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction (11/12 of these books are non-fiction). …


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If a gorilla ran across a basketball court while you tried counting the number of times a basketball passes between players, would you see it? You’d think so, right? Not necessarily. I recently read The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, a book on how our minds don’t always notice the obvious, and I’m now more aware of how unaware I am, even when I think I’m paying attention. …


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@laurenjessen

In order to graduate from culinary school, I had to work in a professional kitchen. Having never even stepped foot in a professional kitchen before, I only had movies and books to warn me of what was to come. My kitchen experiences were limited to home and, of course, culinary school. Luckily, my experience had little resemblance to Hollywood’s portrayal.

Working in a kitchen — and fine dining, no less — requires a strong work ethic and positive attitude. So does trying to get the job.

The way I was used to interviewing for internships and jobs looked nothing like kitchen interviews. First, it’s not even called an interview. Getting a job in a kitchen means doing a “stage” or a “trail”, which is when someone volunteers in a kitchen to learn new techniques. Not everyone who does a stage is trying to get a job; sometimes, they just really want to learn how great restaurants operate. For those are looking for an internship or job, instead of sitting down to have a back-and-forth conversation, you spend more than half a day working in the kitchen. …

About

Lauren Jessen

UX writing + content + food | Previously Microsoft, Amazon + Eleven Madison Park | Author of YOUTH’S HIGHEST HONOR | laurenjessen.com

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