5 unexpected books that will improve your UX writing

decorative office table with technological tools and light style. modern banner decoration.

5 unexpected books that will improve your UX writing

Become a better product writer in the next 6 months (or so) by reading some unexpected books

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

UX writing is an art and a science

Writing for user experience (UX) is an art as much as a science. Figuring out the right words to put in the right place at the right moment in a user’s journey is the heart and soul of UX writing. 

A good UX writer can translate complex language into clear, plain terms, highlighted by bits of the brand voice when appropriate. This applies to error messages, form fields, and tooltips as much as it applies to welcome messages, empty states, and success modals.

UX writing combines an understanding of design systems, research methods, and data analytics with word-related knowledge about language systems, grammar, and copy editing. UX writing requires content strategy skills—an ability to plan broad product messaging across many surfaces. But a UX writer is ultimately responsible for writing

Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

Improve your creative writing to improve your UX writing

The internet abounds with blog posts and online articles to improve your UX writing skills. Many of these are granular do’s and don’ts—how to write error messages, how to write CTAs—or all-purpose tips, like “Make your sentences shorter.”

Those are helpful, for sure! But it’s important to recognize that creative writing skills will spill over into your day-to-day life as a UX writer. When you practice poetry, write personal essays, or copy edit like a pro, your product copy improves beyond measure. Your writing world opens to possibilities that wouldn’t exist if you’d only learned how to write in-product copy.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Read books, not just blogs

I recommend these books for anyone to improve their writing, but particularly for anyone who wants to improve their UX writing skills. Only one is specifically about UX writing, and none are about design, product development, or UX. They are about writing, creativity, writing well, and developing yourself as a writer and artist.


So why read books that aren’t about UX writing, if UX writing is what you want to become better at?


Reading these books will help you become a writer in your own mind and heart, first. They’ll help you become someone who uses language well, who can wield the power of words. They’ll help crack open the portal to the magic world of language that exists within you.


Why these books?


They’re evergreen. The whims of “writing for the web” change with every year, and last year’s best practices in a blog post might already be out of date. But learning to tap your own creativity and apply the basics of writing well are skills that will last forever. The books I recommend here will continue to be useful for many years.


They create focus. Challenging yourself to actually read a book instead of skimming a web article (which we all do) creates new neural pathways in your brain. You’ll develop the ability to think quickly, concentrate, listen, and make connections in the world.


They don’t just tell, they teach. None of these books spell out “how to” write in a formulaic way. They do teach new ways of thinking and of looking at the world (and the world of language). Some of the books listed here contain exercises. You can do these at your leisure, but be prepared for waves of inspiration that might cause you to cancel plans so you can keep creating!


You may find this list useful if:
  • You currently work as a UX writer and want to improve your writing skills
  • You aren’t a UX writer but you’ve been tasked with writing user interface (UI) copy, or some other writing project
  • You’re an advertising or marketing copywriter who wants to expand your writing skill set, possibly switch to UX writing, or improve your creative writing skills
  • You’re a technical writer who wants to expand your writing skill set, possibly switch to UX writing, or improve your creative writing skills
  • You’re a copy editor or technical editor who wants to improve your writing and editing skills
home office desk background, Desk musicians, hand holding pencil and writing note on wood table,Checklist Notice Remember Planning Concept
Image via Adobe Stock

(Note: none of these are affiliate links, so feel free to click abundantly!)

1. Nicely Said: Writing for the Web with Style and Purpose by Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee

Key takeaway: Language is powerful. Your words can make people feel happy, sad, frustrated, proud, and everything in between. So whether or not “writer” is in your title, your writing is important. At the end of the day, you’re a person communicating with other people. You want to be nice about it, and despite the screens between you and your readers, you can do that. That’s why style matters.

2. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zissner

Key takeaway: Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. 

3. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Annie Lamott

Key takeaway: If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days—listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you’ve taken in, all that you’ve overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)

4. The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell

Key takeaway: Good exercises are provocative, challenging, and often entertaining. A good exercise will engage you on at least several levels, and should necessitate the breaking of new ground … they provide a way to enter the mysteries.

5. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Key takeaway: No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.


OK, your turn! What are some of your favorite books that can help improve writing, creativity, or life in general?

Thank you for reading! Best wishes on your writerly journey.

This article was reposted on Medium on June 19, 2018

Thanks for reading! Reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn, too😃

Header image from Adobe Stock

2 thoughts on “5 unexpected books that will improve your UX writing

  1. Great list! Really helpful as I’m currently looking for ways to package my CW experience into UX writing roles. The Artist’s Way is one of my favorites. I’d add Steven Pressfield’s, “The War of Art” and Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s