If you’re a UX writer or your work day (or your ideal work day) has you tinkering with words—particularly the words that end up on any kind of digital interface—here’s a reading list for you!
Poorly written copy can cause users to feel confused or frustrated with the experience. The best copy builds rapport and helps guide users through their journey—whether they’re completing a purchase, looking for an answer to a question, or working to meet any other need or goal.
Whether you’re interested in becoming a UX writer, already working in the field, or you’re a designer who wants to get better at words—here’s the most important thing you need to know:
Your words matter. And sometimes, how you write those words needs a refresh.
What better way to freshen up your writing practice than to learn some new things and gather inspiration? So here are some of our favorite books—essential additions to the library of anyone who designs with words, especially in tech:
- Microcopy: The Complete Guide
- Strategic Writing for UX
- Writing is Designing
- The Content Design Book
- Everybody Writes
- Storytelling in Design
- Nicely Said
- How to Make Sense of Any Mess
- Conversational Design
- Content Everywhere
- Writing for Designers
1. Microcopy: The Complete Guide
This book is the quintessential text for the world of UX writing. If you work in UX, digital marketing, sales, product management, UI design, or even personal blogging—bump this book to the top of your list. Kinneret Yifrah, founder and manager of the microcopy studio Nemala, takes a deep and comprehensive dive into the world of microcopy.
This book covers everything from basic UX writing principles, to how to design voice and tone from scratch; from how to use copy to alleviate users’ concerns to writing in ways that are accessible to everyone. It’s loaded with practical tips and tricks for writing any kind of microcopy in a digital interface, from 404 screens to forms, and beyond.
2. Strategic Writing for UX
Content strategist and UX pro Torrey Podmajersky has packed a lot into this thin volume. If you want a clear framework for writing copy that’s engaging and conversational—and aligned with the goals of both the user andthe business—this is the book for you.
You’ll learn how to create and use voice charts for decision-making, the definition and importance of content-first design, as well as text patterns, editing practices, and how to evaluate the effectiveness of your copy—and more.
3. Writing is Designing
If you’re a writer in tech, you’ve more than likely experienced the all too common divide between copy and design. Which comes first? What’s the best way to collaborate? How do you write effectively for the visual context where the words will land?
In this book, Michael J. Metts and Andy Welfle build a bridge between the often separate worlds or writing and design—a useful read whether you’re a writer, a designer, a product manager, or an executive.
Covering everything from the basics of “how words shape experiences” to the nuances of voice, tone, accessibility, and collaboration, this book is rooted in the idea that writing is an integral part of the design process.
4. The Content Design Book
Content Design London describes this as “short, lively, and practical”—and we couldn’t agree more. Based on the experiences of Sarah Richards and her team at Content Design London, a widely respected content design consultancy that offers training and coaching, this book will give you a practical look at how to apply new techniques and design content for products and experiences.
You’ll learn techniques for producing content in an agile setting, how to work with “tricky” stakeholders, how to speed up production with pair writing, and even the science of reading. An interesting and practical read all around!
5. Everybody Writes
Imposter syndrome is real, especially for people in tech who may not have really considered themselves to be “writers” in the traditional sense of the word (imagine someone hunched over at a desk all day, churning out brilliant content that publishers want to sell).
Here, Ann Handley tackles the basics in a way that’s approachable, downright witty, and immediately applicable to any kind of writing. She demystifies the writing process and covers everything from unlearning what high school taught you about writing, to ugly first drafts, to how to work with a writing buddy—and so much more.
This one’s a great choice whether you’re a UX writer or a copywriter as the concepts apply across writing disciplines.
6. Storytelling in Design
If you’re curious to learn more about the power of storytelling in UX, this is the book for you. UX designer and speaker Anna Dahlström will walk you through traditional storytelling methods and tools, and demonstrate the powerful effect these can have on user experiences.
This book explores the what, why, and how of storytelling in product design, drawing connections between elements in traditional storytelling (such as plot points) and locating or translating them into the world of product design. It will prompt you to ask questions like:
- What’s the beginning, middle, and end of the product or user experience story?
- Who are the characters at play?
- What emotions does this story (product, experience, user flow) bring up for people?
An enlightening and engaging read—especially useful to UX writers, UX designers, and product owners.
7. Nicely Said
If you’re looking to focus purely on the art and craft of writing for the web, Nicely Said is an excellent choice. Nicole Fenton (product writer, researcher and senior content strategist) and Kate Kiefer Lee (head of Communications and Corporate Affairs at Mailchimp) offer an approachable and elegant guide to writing all sorts of web copy. Whether you’re writing a product page or copy for a 404 screen (or anything in between), this book will show you how to do that effectively—while you master voice and tone, build a rapport with your readers/users, and develop project briefs and content style guides.
It’s an excellent read, particularly if you’ve found yourself in a writerly role within the marketing or product design world. But even seasoned writers will find plenty to learn!
8. How to Make Sense of Any Mess
If you’ve ever been handed a request for copy that seemed like a hopeless tangle of stakeholders and competing goals, loads of information to be communicated and limited space in which to do that—Abby Covert’s How to Make Sense of Any Mess is the book for you. But we also recommend it for people who want to better understand information architecture (IA).
This book will give you a straightforward guide through seven steps to making sense of an informational mess. It includes practical lessons and exercises that will help you work through IA problems and design content that’s structured in ways that work for your readers.
9. Conversational Design
In a world that’s increasingly digitalized and remote, it’s important to keep interactions with our users as real and, in a sense, personal as possible.
Put simply, conversation is something that humans know how to do. In this book, design strategist and consultant Erika Hall tackles the idea of conversation as a model for human-centered design.
Here, you’ll learn how to look at product and experience design through the lens of conversation and ask what kind of conversation you’re carrying on with your users. It’s an approachable guide (even for those new to design) that covers the principles of conversational design and what they look like in practice.
10. Content Everywhere
While we’re talking about the proliferation of digital experiences, we have to think about the proliferation of copy within those experiences. If you’ve ever found yourself repeatedly re-working the same bit of copy to make it fit another form, check out Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s Content Everywhere.
This book explores how we might create what the author calls “future-ready” content—copy that, rather than being single-use (written for this one spot on this one screen in this one user flow), is flexible, reusable, and manageable in a variety of contexts. Where many of the books we’ve presented so far focus on methods, this one introduces a mindset that you can cultivate as you create content.
11. Writing for Designers
Whether you’re a designer who wants to get better at managing the content side of things, or you’ve just found yourself managing writing processes and you’re uncertain how to navigate the practicalities, Scott Kubie’s Writing for Designersis a fantastic (and quick) read.
Rather than focusing on how to write, this book focuses on how to make the writing happen. You’ll get practical guidance and insights on how to organize and navigate the operational side of the writing process—from building writing assignments or copy briefs to developing workflows and managing more productive processes for editing, feedback, and collaboration.
That’s a wrap!
There you have it. Eleven books for people who work with words—particularly at the intersection of design and tech. If you’re serious about getting into UX writing or content design, these will give you an excellent foundation, as well as a means of growing your knowledge base as you work to amp up your UX writing skills.
If you’d like to learn more about UX writing and how to build your microcopy writing skills, check out these articles: