Use sentence-style capitalization in text and for all text elements in the UI except for proper nouns. Sentence style capitalizes only the first word of each sentence.
The active voice is direct and punchy, and emphasizes the subject of the sentence. The subject clearly “acts upon” the verb (hence, “active”). For example, “John ate the apple.” In situations where either voice will work, generally choose the active voice for more directness.
Next, the admin configures access privileges.
Next, access privileges are configured by the admin.
The passive voice, on the other hand, flips the construction so that the subject is secondary to the verb and object (hence, “passive”). Often, the subject is not even included in the sentence. For example, “The apple was eaten by John” or just “The apple was eaten.” Only sentences that contain direct objects can be constructed in the passive voice. Thus, “John ate” cannot be constructed passively.
The passive voice makes for a more natural tone in certain use cases. For example, if the true subject of the sentence is a system, and the human is secondary, passive voice can be acceptable.
The database needs to be rebooted.
Someone needs to reboot the database.
Engage your readers by using second person (you, your) where appropriate. First person (I, we, our) focuses on the writer rather than the audience, which is rarely appropriate in UI or technical contexts. Avoid the first person unless you have a compelling reason to use it.
One exception to this is in the case of possessive adjectives in the UI. You can use first person in headings or labels that are very specific to the user or customer data, such as “My Account” or “My Usage.” In explanatory text for the heading or label, however, use second person. For example, “Your usage is calculated from the first day of the month.”
While a more formal tone is often appropriate for technical and business writing, a more casual tone is becoming increasingly accepted (and expected) in UI and supporting materials.
Your IBM Cloud account is ready!
You have reached your usage limit!!
Often overused, these terms can convey the wrong tone for technical material, and are not regarded the same way in all cultures. Use terms such as “please” and “thank you” carefully.
Indexing might take a few minutes. Please wait.
Please create a subscription account to get full access to the catalog.
These terms are often misused. Remember, “can” implies ability, and “may” implies permission (and sometimes uncertainty).
You can use the command line interface to update your app.
You may use the command line interface to update your app.
These terms can also be confusing. Remember, when either “may” or “might” will work, generally go with “might” to avoid confusion with the multiple meanings of “may.”
You might need more advanced features when integrating with another app.
You may need more advanced features when integrating with another app.