every word matters
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every word matters

Lauren Jessen, Microsoft

I’m Lauren, a Design Content Writer at Microsoft. My work involves creating content for internal communications, UX, and editorial. I’m also an author (working on my second book!), so I’m writing, reading, and thinking about words 24/7.

How did you get into UX writing?

I’ve always been a writer but landing on UX writing involved a lot of career zig zags. After publishing my first book, Youth’s Highest Honor, I attended culinary school and worked in the kitchen of Eleven Madison Park.

After culinary school, I moved to Seattle to work at Amazon, where I learned about UX design and fell in love with it. I decided to take the General Assembly User Experience Design Immersive program and immediately started freelancing as a UX Designer at a few startups.

I learned about UX writing after having coffee with other designers. It was the best discovery and I felt as though all my experiences had led up to this moment in time. I’m now writing words at Microsoft and loving it. Because of my previous experiences as a UX Designer, I approach writing with a design thinking mindset which has been helpful for creating user-centered content.

What does a normal day look like?

I start my days by either reading, journaling, or researching for my second book, all of which have been calming ways to start the day. I organize my day the night before so that I know what needs to happen when I wake up.

When I get to the office, I start by reviewing my to-do list and calendar so I know where I need to be and when. My team does a daily standup to review current work and discuss any blockers, and then it’s off to the writing races. When words are needed on my team, I’m the go-to person. The type of work can vary each day, but generally I’m spending time on internal communications, emails, articles, and making technical concepts not so technical for readers.

At night, there are more words to be written. From my book to articles on my website to gathering content for my newsletter, there’s no shortage of words (just time!). I cook dinner with my husband and play with our dog and two cats. The night ends with reading in bed and trying not to fall asleep before getting through at least one chapter.

What are the top 3 apps you use?

Trello: In the past I’ve used a paper planner to manage everything, but it became inefficient with too many moving pieces. Trello has been so convenient for organizing my life (and easier to assign tasks to my husband).

Medium: For reading and writing articles. Lots of great information on this platform.

Spotify: When I’m in the mood for music or podcasts, Spotify is my go-to. I love that I can make a playlist for any occasion.

Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?

Read good books. I tend to read mostly non-fiction because I enjoy learning about a variety of topics. The topics don’t have to be tech or design focused to be inspiring in my line of work.

Also, good design — UX, visual, interior, etc — are inspiring when done well. Beyond that, unplugging and going out into the world to interact is refreshingly inspiring.

Are there any books or blogs you’d recommend?

I created a Favorites section of my website where I track all my favorite writing, design, and creative living books. On average I read one book a week, so the list is always being updated with new finds.

Online, I sift through Medium for articles on writing, design, and UX. I also share all the most interesting articles and books I discover during the week on my newsletter, Between the Lines.

What’s the best thing about your job?

There are endless ways to write something, and I love the effect a good sentence can have. Especially after multiple drafts and testing. When writing helps someone understand something they may not have known before or provides a new perspective, that’s the most satisfying feeling.

What have you worked on that you’re most proud of?

One project that involved a lot of content creation was my book, Youth’s Highest Honor: Your Guide to Earning the Congressional Award and Building Life Skills, which I am very proud of. After earning the Congressional Award Gold Medal, my sister and I wrote a book about our experiences to help other young people earn medals of their own. It was incredibly rewarding to create this book from scratch and make our idea a reality.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a UX writer?

There’s only so much real estate in user interfaces, so fitting words into context while still conveying the right message can be a (fun) challenge. Just as I love that there are endless ways to say something, landing on the most accurate version of messaging for the user experience is what I spend a lot of time thinking about.

What’s your biggest content pet peeve?

There are three that jump to the top of my mind. The first is the idea that content creation needs to be a constant stream of production. Don’t say something just to say something — that’s noise. When content is intentional and well-thought-out, it’s more valuable.

Second, I am team Oxford comma. I cringe when I don’t see that beloved comma used in sentences that could really benefit from it.

Third, manipulinks (the term for making users feel bad for opting out of offers or newsletters) are just the worst. So rude.

Do you have any advice for aspiring UX writers?

Read a lot, write a lot, and meet with other writers. When I first transitioned into UX design and UX writing, I reached out to a lot of people for coffee meetings. I’m endlessly grateful for their time and support, especially when I was working to transition and everything felt so unknown.

Also, maintain a growth mindset. There’s always more you can learn and more perspectives you can listen to. If you go into any situation open-minded, you’ll be better off for it.

Is there anything you want to promote?

Twice a month I send out a newsletter, Between the Lines, with thoughts and curated content on writing, design, and pursuing a creative life. Whether you’re in UX, publishing, screenwriting — anything where writing is involved! — content creation can be a challenge. Having a community to write and be creative with makes a difference.

Where can people find and follow you?

Find me on my website, Medium, Instagram, Twitter, and my newsletter.

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Want more? Follow every word matters for more interviews and insight into content design and UX writing.

every word matters is curated by Dominic Warren.

Thanks again to Lauren Jessen for taking the time to answer these questions.

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