Principles

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Talk to your friends

We know the basic grammar rules and some obscure ones, but we’re not sticklers. When in doubt, we pick the conventions of everyday conversation over the grammar book.

Writing for Intuit is like having a chat with a friend. Our writing in Mint, ProConnect, QuickBooks, Turbo, and TurboTax is less formal and by-the-book than what you’ll read in a newspaper—and that’s OK.


Be clear and precise

Customers look to us for answers and guidance. So when you explain things, be as definitive and precise as you can. And use simple terms consistently.

Consistent use of definitive words improves user comprehension and also helps out with accessibility and translation.

There will be times, of course, when you don’t know exactly what’s going on. That’s a good opportunity to push your partners to improve the experience so you can speak more directly to what’s happening. But if all else fails and things still aren’t clear, try to be as straightforward as possible.

We can’t connect to your Square account right now. Give us a few minutes.

Looks like there might be a problem with your Square account. Try again later.


End sentences with prepositions

It’s fine to end sentences with prepositions most of the time. We prefer it, in fact. Just be careful not to slip into something that’s too informal. If you’d never say it in conversation, then don’t write it that way.

example

bad example


Speak to customers as "you"

Use first person when we talk about ourselves

Use “we,” “our,” and “us” when you write as Mint, TurboTax, or QuickBooks. It’s one way that we make experiences feel more personal. We want customers to know that there are people behind Intuit products and that we’re in this with them.

Just don’t be creepy. We never want them to think we’re spying on them. Exception: when you’re referring to the actual product, especially in marketing and sales, use “it,” not “us.”

Let’s get started. What’s your email address?
Pick a tax category and we’ll take care of the rest.
Still need help? Contact us.
We’ll help you create professional-looking receipts and invoices.
QuickBooks helps you get organized. It saves people about 8 hours per week.

Let’s get started. Tell us your email address and we’ll add it to your account.
We see you your app hasn’t updated since 3/10/10. Want us to update it now?
QuickBooks helps you get organized. We save people about 8 hours per week.

Use second person for customers, except for buttons and legal stuff

Our product experiences are a conversation with customers. We talk directly to them, so use second person to address them.

Buttons can be the exception, though. Sometimes they represent the customer’s side of the conversation, so it’s OK to use first person there to represent the customer’s voice and maintain the conversational quality of the experience. Note that first person in buttons is an option, not a mandate.

You added 5 new customers this month!
Add my customers (button label)
Enter your email address and phone number.
See a snapshot of where you stand.
Make any changes you want.
I agree

5 new customers were added this month!
Add customers (button label)
Enter an email address and phone number.
See a snapshot of where I stand.
You agree.

Use third person for people who aren’t the customer, and keep things gender neutral

Use third person when you refer to someone (or something) other than the customer performing the action.

We work with plenty of small businesses, so we use third person when referring to those small business’s customers, vendors, partners, accountants, and so forth.

Try to keep things gender neutral, including pronouns. If you find yourself in the awkward spot where the subject’s gender is unknown, write your way around it. Don’t use “she/he,” “s/he,” or “one.” If you can’t write your way around it, then it’s OK to use they, them, or their.

See more guidelines about gender-neutral language.


Think globally

You’re reading content created in U.S. English. Not all our customers experience our products or marketing in this way. As Intuit reaches more people around the world, here are some things to consider.

Translation differences


To make U.S. English copy work in other languages, things are going to change. Word order, grammatical gender, and copy length will affect the content design. In Romance languages like French, Portuguese, and Spanish, the content will be longer. Prepare to be flexible and work toward designs that can accommodate copy variations.

Localization for culture fit


Direct translations of content aren’t enough. Copy also needs to be culturally appropriate and correct for the region it appears in. Intuit products need to reflect local variations in currency, taxes, dates, times, government and business regulations, and other things that are important for our users’ finances.

Writing tips that can help

Consistent, clear, specific word choice

Try to choose one specific term and stick to it. Instead of saying “purchase,” “register,” or “get,” maybe consistently write “buy.”

Contractions

Contractions are an essential way of making U.S. English conversational, but they get tricky in translation. Work with your regional content designers to decide how to handle them. And follow the guidelines for contractions.

Gender

Try to be gender-neutral and inclusive in copy, and be aware that this is challenging in languages that build gender into the grammar. See gender guidelines.

Slang and jargon

Idioms are specific to cultures and languages. Use slang when it works, and partner with regional content partners to find the right fit for other regions.

Sentence length

Try to limit sentences to no more than 20 words. For more information, see our guidelines on keeping it simple.

Similes and metaphors

Some metaphors might not translate well for other languages and cultures. Feel free to use metaphors, but be careful. What sounds good to you may not resonate with others.

Everyone needs sleep, even our servers. They’ll be down for maintenance 9:00–9:30 PM PT, so you can both get some shut-eye.

Think of interest rates and APR like a bill at a restaurant. The interest rate is just the cost of the food. But APR includes the food, tax, and tip.

Unlike real life, here you can easily visit your past. Just select the year you’re interested in to step back in time.

Think of an interest rate like the price of gas when you pay with cash, APR when you pay with a credit card.

Our servers are like insomniacs—every so often they need a medically-induced nap.

Ready for a blast from the past? Step into our time machine and check out last year’s data.


Use active voice

The active voice is usually clearer, more direct, and easier to read than passive voice. And it’s almost always shorter.

Quickly categorize your transactions.

Your transactions can quickly be categorized.

Every now and again, it’ll sound better to put the focus on an object and omit the thing doing the action. This is the rare exception when passive voice is OK.

For example, in certain confirmation messages, we use passive voice to confirm the action the user just completed.

Changes saved.
Invoice 4107 sent to Travis Waldron.
34 invoices sent.

The system saved your changes.
We sent Invoice 4107 to Travis Waldron.
You sent 34 invoices.

Feeling lost? Here’s the deal: With active voice, the subject performs the action of the verb, usually on an object. (Think: she designed the screen.) With passive voice, the subject receives the action of the verb. (Think: the screen was designed by her.)

Passive sentences are longer than active ones because they usually need a helping verb like “is” or “was” to make sense. Passive voice is the hallmark of bureaucratic jargon, evasion, and skirting responsibility. Don’t use it.

A chart of accounts lists all your tax categories.
The team conducted usability tests with customers.
We made mistakes in the weeks before launch.

All your tax categories are listed in the chart of accounts.
Usability tests with customers were conducted by the team.
Mistakes were made in the weeks before launch.


Use everyday contraction

Use the contractions of everyday conversation. Just don’t get carried away.

Don’t use regional contractions like “ain’t”, “shan’t”, “y’all” (sorry, Austin), “mustn’t”, and so on.

Don’t turn nouns into contractions.

And be aware that contractions get tricky when it comes to translation. Work with your regional content designers to decide how to handle them.

Here’s a list of contractions that are usually fine.

Examples

  • aren’t
  • can’t
  • couldn’t
  • didn’t
  • doesn’t
  • don’t
  • hasn’t
  • haven’t
  • isn’t
  • it’s
  • let’s
  • shouldn’t
  • that’s
  • there’s
  • they’re
  • they’ve
  • wasn’t
  • we’ll
  • we’re
  • weren’t
  • what’s
  • where’s
  • won’t
  • you’ll
  • you’re
  • you’ve

We’ll get you every deduction and credit you’re entitled to.

Ready to create an invoice?

It’ll help later, we promise.

Thanks! We’ll send you an email when we know more.

We will make sure you get every deduction and credit you are entitled to.

Y’all fixin’ to create an invoice?

This’ll help later, we promise.

Thanks! An update’s on the way.

Your feedback’s valuable to us.


Use simple verb tenses

For the most part, write in simple tenses—past, present, and future. They’re direct, clear, and short.

Try to stay away from progressive tenses unless you need to convey ongoing action.

Simple verb tenses are also easier for non-native speakers to understand and for translation teams to translate.

You get a discount for QuickBooks. (present)
You got a discount for QuickBooks. (past)
You’ll get a discount for QuickBooks. (future)
Review your transactions. (present)

You’re getting a discount. (present progressive)
You’ve gotten a discount since January. (present perfect)
You’ve been getting a discount since January. (present perfect progressive)
You were getting a discount when you unsubscribed. (past progressive)
You had gotten a discount for months when you unsubscribed. (past perfect)
You had been getting a discount for months when you unsubscribed. (past perfect progressive)
You’ll be getting a discount next year. (future progressive)
You’ll have gotten a discount all year. (future perfect)
You’ll have been getting a discount for months when you unsubscribe. (future perfect progressive)