The Handy List of Human Words

Deanna Horton
Oct 15, 2019 · 3 min read
A plain language word list for UX writing and help content to make your writing sound more human. Illustration by Anne Smith

At SurveyMonkey, we write words that are simple, direct, and human. These basic content principles align with most style guides for writing on the Internet, and at this point they’re deeply ingrained in the brains of everyone on our content strategy team.

But when you’re in the weeds — trying to explain a complicated feature in a help article or writing copy for a modal that needs to meet specific legal requirements — it’s easy to let some robotic words slip into your writing.

I kept seeing the same complex words show up again and again in UI designs and help articles. Eventually, it became second nature to quickly spot them and replace them with plain language. Writing in plain language makes your content easier to read, easier to understand, and more accessible. It’s the right thing to do for your customers and your business.

To help my team spot robotic words in their own writing, I created The Handy List of Human Words.

About the list

  • who can do something
  • what you can do
  • what you can’t do
  • what you need
  • what you need to do
  • how to do something
  • other ways to do something
  • what happens if you do something
  • what happens if you don’t do something
  • when something happens
  • why something happens

Use this as a reference when you’re editing your own content. I promise it’ll make your writing more simple, direct, and human. :)

The Handy List of Human Words

People

Actions

Access

Relationships

Timing

Things

If you don’t write for software, check out plainlanguage.gov’s list of simple words and phrases for government content, and Health Research for Action’s Plain Language Word List for healthcare content.

Have any examples to add? Leave a comment!

Curiosity by Design

We’re a passionate group of designers, content strategists…

Curiosity by Design

We’re a passionate group of designers, content strategists, and researchers who create the SurveyMonkey experience. We’re as diverse in thought as we are similar in experience — and we’re curious…by design.

Deanna Horton

Written by

Lead Content Strategist at SurveyMonkey. I love helping people find what they’re looking for.

Curiosity by Design

We’re a passionate group of designers, content strategists, and researchers who create the SurveyMonkey experience. We’re as diverse in thought as we are similar in experience — and we’re curious…by design.