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The UX Writing Bible

If I could nominate one book to be our UX Writing Bible, it would be the Yahoo! Style Guide.

A version of this post originally appeared in Issue 012 of UX Writing Events.

I saw on Twitter recently that Torrey was celebrating the 1-year publishing anniversary of Strategic Writing for UX. Speaking as an author myself, I can tell you it’s not too late congratulate her or otherwise offer words of thanks. (Better yet? Give it a review!)

When I started doing this kind of work around 2009, I had few books to guide my interface copy writing for consumer-facing mobile apps. Interfaces weren’t new, of course, nor was technical writing. But technical writing has never really embraced writing in the interface, and many of the patterns and affordances on mobile were brand new. There was a lot to figure out.

I’m envious of today’s new UX writers, who have a bevy of excellent books, courses, and podcasts to choose from. Me? I made up what I had to, and dog-eared the hell out of two books – one small, one large – that few UX writers seem to be familiar with. I’d like to introduce you to them.

The 10% Solution

A quick guide to self-editing your writing called The 10% Solution. It’s focused on fiction, but I found many of its lessons equally applicable to refining interface copy. It introduced me to ideas like “The ACB’s” that I have long applied to my craft, and further explored in my own book.

The Yahoo! Style Guide

Oh baby. If I could nominate one book to be our UX Writing Bible, it’s this one: the voluminously titled The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing and Creating Content for the Web.

Most of the #writinghelp questions I see on the Content + UX Slack have an answer in the Yahoo! Style Guide. (It may or may not be out of print? Physical copies seem to be available depending on the weather.) It’s credited to Chris Barr, but his bio details the contributions of his whole team, and gives heavy credit to a writer named Trystan L. Bass for the interface copy chapters in particular. Trystan, if you’re out there – thanks.

I’m sure there were others I missed over those dark ages of 2010 to 2018, but these two books got me through. If you’ve also been doing UX writing since before 2018, I’d love to know what books you relied on to guide your UX writing, or any memories you have to share about the Yahoo! Style Guide. Send me a note!