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Writing small

No matter what type of content you’re writing at Intuit, less is (almost always) more. Customers come to our products to accomplish tasks, not to get bogged down in words.

Whether a help article or a chatbot conversation, customers scan to find what’s important to them. They want to consume info that’s accurate, concise, clear, and conversational.

Keep it short

Look at your content, word by word, and challenge yourself to:

Examples

  • Make it scannable. Most people have limited attention and skim the content.
  • Use less content. Fewer words means a lighter cognitive load.
  • Keep it simple. A complicated page makes the product look complicated and intimidating. Simple equals easy. 
  • Focus on what’s useful. Customers read only what’s important to them.
  • Guide with structure. Help customers find your message by using hierarchy, bullet points, and visual space.

Make sure every word has a clear purpose and provides value to the customer. If it doesn’t—cut it. Be brutal! Only add back words if you start losing the meaning. Let’s take a look at a few examples that apply these principles. 

Take a little off the top

Headlines—whether they’re on the web or in a product—should be tight and specific. They should quickly convey the gist of the message and let the reader decide whether they want to read more or skip ahead.



  • Get expert help with Full Service

The distilled version clearly conveys the message—with 11 fewer words.

  • You told us you wanted to hand your taxes off to a tax expert. Ready to continue?

Prioritize what customers need

According to Nielsen Norman Group, people rarely read online (but you knew that!). They scan, so it’s important to front-load key messages. If the content is critical, put it in front, on top, or in an eye-catching location.  

Use headlines and even CTAs to flag important information. For modals—which users often dismiss quickly—the CTA might be the element doing most of the informational work, so make it clear and value-packed. 

In the following example, the key message is “We need your W-2 to move forward.” The distilled version lets the customer know what they need in the first 4 words.



Let's get your W-2

To get started, we’ll need a digital copy of your form—a PDF, JPG, or PNG.

OK, if you have a pdf copy of your W-2, we can use it to save time

When you upload it, we’ll pull the info directly over. 

Don’t have a PDF? That’s OK. We’ll help you type your info.

Great! Let's upload your PDF now.

Uploading your PDF works best when you use the PDF directly from your employer (versus a scan you create or a photo you took.)

Use progressive disclosure

Progressive disclosure lets the customer focus on what’s in front of them before moving on to the next task. This is especially helpful for long forms or workflows, where the customer can quickly become overwhelmed.

Used thoughtfully, progressive disclosure can:

  • help prioritize customers’ attention
  • prevent overwhelm
  • lower cognitive load
  • save time
  • provide a feeling of making progress 

Progressive disclosure is also a foundation of inclusive design. Some neurodiverse people (like those with ADHD or anxiety, for example) might find a wall of text to be too much and abandon the task.

There are many ways to progressively disclose info.

Examples

  • Use links to take the customer to a web page with more details about an offer or process. Read more about links
  • Accordion components can be collapsed or expanded to see relevant information. (But be thoughtful about how and when you hide info.)
  • Some automated experiences ask customers to fill in an option (for example, choosing to be contacted by text or by email), then display follow-up fields (a phone field if “text” was selected, or an email field if they chose “email”). 
  • Step-throughs break down a process into bite-sized pieces. The customer answers questions or makes selections that have been clustered into logical or related groups, and only progresses to the next section when they have completed the one they are in.

Break it up

No one opens fintech software hoping to read lengthy narratives. Content hierarchy lets you structure content to help the reader quickly find details. 

Try using bullets to break big chunks of text into smaller, digestible pieces. Read our guidance about bullets



Generally, support is what you spend on a person to provide the basic life necessities. 

Support includes the cost of:

  • Food
  • Lodging (even if your mortgage is paid off)
  • Clothing
  • Education (including the GI bill)
  • Medical and dental care (including insurance and supplemental Medicare premiums) 
  • Recreation
  • Transportation and similar necessities

Whether you’re supporting a friend or a relative, the term “support” is generally defined as what you spend on a person to provide the basic necessities of life. 

Keep in mind it doesn’t matter where the support money comes from, as long as the money is yours. It can be taxable or nontaxable income like Social Security, and you don’t have to be working in order to support someone.

Bullets aren’t the only way to help readers browse the page. Images and buttons can be used to help tell the story and move a customer along.

Tips for writing small

First, decide what to say. Then find the shortest way to say it.



Worth the space

Not worth the space

Explaining the payoff
Detailed info about the future
  • Track your mileage automatically and get 57.5¢ a mile.
  • At tax time, you’ll be ready.
  • Update your billing info so you don’t lose access.
  • Subscribe and save 50%.
  • Next January, tap Taxes, then Annual taxes to see your 2020 tax checklist. When we’re done with this step, we’ll move on to the final phase, which is adding the products and services you sold. When it’s time to add a customer, we’ll ask for their name, address, phone number, and any other info you want to keep track of.
Reducing work and worry
Educational content they didn't ask for
  • No employees? You can skip this part.
  • Tip: Link your accounts to add expenses faster.
  • You can change this anytime.
  • It’s OK to estimate.
  • Your best guess is fine.
  • Select all that apply.
  • Select all that applied in 2020.
  • Ready to see your chart of accounts? Before you continue, you should know a bit about how the chart of accounts works. It’s an index of all the financial accounts in the general ledger of a company. In short, it's an organizational tool that provides a digestible breakdown of all the financial transactions that a company conducted during a specific accounting period, broken down into subcategories.
Guiding them to the right answer
Exhaustive lists
  • Construction businesses usually pick X.
  • The usual amount is $X. 
  • These settings work for most people. 
  • Based on your info, X is right for you.
  • Got a marriage allowance? (Uncommon)
  • QuickBooks Simple Start (Most popular)
  • What kind of work do you do? (Example: construction)
  • With QuickBooks invoicing, you can customize invoices to showcase your brand, add your logo, preview what the invoice looks like, accept online payments, get notified when customers view and pay, convert estimates to invoices, and save invoices as a draft.
Preventing mistakes
  • Ask your accountant before making changes.
  • After you send this, you won’t be able to change it.
  • If you edit X, it will change Y.

Tips to cut characters

Follow our style guide
Design on mobile screens first
  • Ask for mobile mocks or make your own.
  • Design for common devices (like the iPhone 11) but make a plan for all devices and languages. For example, you can leave space for the text to wrap or have it dynamically change to a smaller font size. As a last resort, you can truncate the text with ellipses—but try to avoid this if you can.
Ditch filler words

Examples

  • very
  • actually
  • really
  • basically
  • just
  • simply
  • even
  • for the most part
  • is designed to
  • sort of
  • kind of
  • a little
  • that
  • only
  • slightly
Skip unneeded prepositions

Examples

  • Where did it go to? ➞ Where did it go?
  • Inventory you sold off ➞ Inventory you sold
  • Meet up with a client ➞ Meet a client
Use short words and phrases

Examples

  • a little bit, a small amount of ➞ a bit, some
  • quite a while ➞ a while
  • a small number of ➞ a few
  • often times ➞ often
  • in some cases, there are times when ➞ sometimes
  • generally speaking, in most cases, for a lot of people ➞ usually
  • when the time comes ➞ later
  • which means ➞ so
  • in addition ➞ plus, also
  • overly ➞ too
  • in the event of ➞ if
Start with a verb

Examples

  • You can do it all in one place ➞ Do it all in one place
  • This is where you can find X ➞ Find X
Use hard-working verbs

Examples

  • Record that the invoice got paid ➞ Mark the invoice paid
  • How much debt you have ➞ What you owe
  • Use your camera to capture ➞ Snap a photo
  • You’ll receive a charge for ➞ You pay
  • Enter your details to schedule an appointment with a TurboTax expert in under 5 minutes ➞ Connect with an expert in under 5 minutes
Make it a question

Examples

  • Enter your payment method ➞ How did you pay?
  • Enter the due date ➞ When is it due?
  • Let’s find out where your refund is → Where’s that refund?
Start your question another way

Examples

  • What region are you in? ➞ Where are you?
  • Which customer paid you? ➞ Who paid you?
Try removing the who or what

Examples

  • We can help you.
  • Here’s why you should do it.
  • Need help? Reach out to us.
  • See how much money you spent.
  • Taxes are due April 15. Let’s get ready to file.
  • Forgot your password? Let’s reset your sign-in info it.
  • How did you pay for it?
  • Snap a photo of your 1099-INT form.
  • [Name], unlock more savings on credit cards, loans, investments, and more
  • Scan the barcode on the back of your driver's license
Use sentence fragments

Examples

  • Your changes have been saved ➞ Changes saved
  • Do you want to save your changes? ➞ Save your changes
  • Have you got a second? ➞ Got a sec?
  • We hope to see you soon ➞ See you soon!
  • Here’s how it works ➞ How it works
  • Are you done editing? ➞ Done editing?
  • Why do you need to know my marital status? ➞ Why we’re asking
Don't be robotic

Examples

  • Location settings incorrect. Fix now. ➞ Mileage tracking is blocked. Let’s fix it.
  • Action failed ➞ That didn’t work
Don't leave out crucial info

Examples

  • Enter total ➞ Enter total before tax
  • Add your loan info ➞ Add your loan info (not student loans) 
  • Refresh ➞ Pull down to refresh

Context matters

In headlines, subheaders, and body text, use possessives (your, their) and articles (a, the).

In buttons, labels, menus, and confirmations, leave out possessives and articles. There isn’t always space, and we want to be consistent. 

Exception: In onboarding, feel free to use possessives in buttons (example: “Get my discount”) and more conversational labels and confirmations.

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