Voice guide part 4: Show what you mean

Examples drive home your “we are” and “we are not” traits

Yael Ben-David
2 min readMay 29, 2024

When you try to write copy that aligns with a voice guide, you start by writing according to the “we are” traits. Tell me your character is friendly and casual, I’ll write, “Hi there! Welcome back to the app. Let’s do this thinggggg” Tell me your character is formal, “I’ll write, “Welcome. Let’s begin.” Tell me what you are and I’ll write copy that it sounds like you might say, and I’ll follow it consistently throughout the flow.

But the flow I write and the flow the next writer writes, may not sound the same. Because we each have an idea, based on lived and learned experiences, about what “friendly” sounds like. What “formal” sounds like. So help us out and think through where we each might end up if me miss your bull’s eye a little bit. You told us to write in a way that’s “friendly”, but my copy came out a little too “familiar”. You meant that we should sound approachable and helpful, but not about to become best friends. Ahhh… now I get it! (Those are you “we are not”.)

Example of adjusting copy for “we are” and “we are not”. Here our first iteration indeed aligns to “we are friendly”; our second iteration also aligns to “we are not chummy”.

“We are” is your bull’s eye and “we are not” is the next ring in the target — it’s where you end up if you miss a little bit, which is why you need that guardrail to get you back on track. But what do landing darts look like?

Keeping it all high level and theoretical might work for a team of a sigle expert at one point in time, but when you’re trying to align across stakeholders, teams, or even yourself over time, examples are massively helpful. Showing, not just telling, help it all sink in and take your voice guide from an academic exercise to a practical, applicable tool.

It’s critical to show examples of getting it right and examples of getting it wrong. Distinguishing between the two is where the value is. That’s where the ah-ha moment lives.

Examples of adjusting copy for “we are” and “we are not”. Both examples are supportive and empathetic, but only the first one is also not assuming.

These might take time, thought, and a bunch of iterations to get right, but they are a major part of what will give your voice guide value, and make real downstream impact on your user experience.