Feb 8, 2023
Research the users you are writing for.
When writing, research:
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- User behavior
- What do users wish to achieve?
- What blocks them from achieving their goal?
- Use contexts
- User vocabulary — use the same terms and phrases that they use to search and scan information.
Simplify text to build consistent clarity in instruction and understanding of the software functionality.
Use common or plain English
Write simple sentences, and use simple phrasing. This:
- Improves comprehension
- Is easier to translate — English may not be the first language for many of our users
- Helps users make better decisions;
- Builds trust with users.
Rework a sentence over several iterations.
Consider breaking down sentences with comma-separated items into a simple list.
Use a simple, present, and active voice
Use active voice over a passive voice — focus on the main verb’s agent.
|The quokka carried its baby in her pouch.
||The baby was carried by the quokka in her pouch.
|A researcher found a vulnerability.
||A vulnerability was found by a researcher.
|The company requires security audits to meet compliance every year.
||To meet compliance the company requires security audits every year.
- Use present tense (for example “Returns a value” and “Will return a value…”)
- Use common contractions for an informal voice (for example “it’s” and “you’re”) but avoid obscure ones (for example “you’d”)
- Avoid using gerunds (-ings) for more consise language (for example “using” → “use”).
Beware of tight measures
The measure of a line of text is its width.
Avoid long sentences and paragraphs. This is especially important when the measure is short relative to the font size.
Like with newspaper copy, long runs of text in a panel with a short measure are more difficult to read due to readjustment of the eye from line to line down a thin column.
Feb 8, 2023
Rule of thumb: write link text that makes sense when read out of context in isolation.
Use links to help users navigate content (for example, between landmark regions) and to support user journeys.
On public-facing pages good links improve document semantics and search engine optimization.
Use text in links.
When adding links within paragraphs, try placing links at the end of sentences.
When linking to an email address via
mailto: use the full email address as the link text.
If using images, ensure the image has understandable
Referring to links and their interaction
Do not refer to the method of interaction (for example “click here”) in link text.
Users interact with links in many ways, including via keyboard, mouse, or via touch.
When talking about a link or giving instruction, use “select” as the verb.
Make the destination clear even out of context
Write link text that makes the destination clear.
The link text should be understandable when read out of context of surrounding content, for example:
This is requirement for WCAG success criterions:
- 2.4.4 Link purpose (in context) — level A
- 2.4.9 Link purpose (link only) — level AAA
Add links with intent
Use links sparingly and with purpose.
- Be explicit when linking to product documentation.
- Use “deep” linking where appropriate and possible, linking directly to a page or content on a page via its ID.
- Link to existing authoritative resources instead of duplicating them.
Avoid changing default link interaction behavior
Open links in the same browser tab or window instead of force opening a new window or tab.
This is the default behavior of hyperlinks and maintains browser Back button functionality.
If necessary — such as for logon interstitials or previewing a document — indicate the change in behavior where possible.
Resources for writing good links
Feb 8, 2023
Use a third-person, neutral perspective of voice.
Generally avoid a first-person perspective of voice (not using “I” or “we”).
Use a first-person perspective for:
- Legalese (for example “I hereby …”)
- Bugcrowd services (for example “We use these details to get you payments and let you manage them”).
Use a second-person persective when addressing the user directly.
Only use possessives in Hint text when referring to the user, for example:
- “Get paid through a direct deposit to your account”
- “Your active sessions are listed below”
- “If you believe your account may have been compromised …”.
Don’t use possessives in titles or labels.
For example, write navigation menus like this:
- Account settings
- Log out
Don’t do this:
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- “Your invites” or “My invites”
- “Your account settings” or “My account settings”
- “Our support”
Write in American English
Use American English.
Headings & titles
Use sentence case for titles and headings, capitalizing only the opening word and proper nouns.
- Write in sentence case
- Avoid full capitalization for readability reasons
Use title case for proper nouns, for example:
- Ada Lovelace
- The Bureau of Meteorology
- Learn how to hack
- Rules of engagement
- Hacking with Bugcrowd
Capitalize Bugcrowd’s products and services as proper nouns.
Spell and capitalize features as they are spelled by the section of the application or the headings of the pages they exist in.
Also see Glossary, below.
Use digits instead of words unless it would be unconventional, for example:
- “one or two submissions”
- ordinals (first, second, …) — dates excepted.
Add a comma between the third and fourth digit from the right, for numbers 10,000 and above.
Use the word million instead of digits.
Guidance adapted from the Australian Government’s Digital Content Guide Writing style: Numbers and measurements entry.
Feb 8, 2023
Write simple sentences to avoid complex punctuation.
Periods in headings
Don’t use a period at the end of a heading.
Periods in lists
Avoid periods in simple lists.
- If the simple list is prefaced (such as with “For example:”) only give the final list item a period
- If the list is simple and unprefaced don’t use periods
- If a list must consist of multiple sentences use periods as normal
- Use commas sparingly
- Use Oxford commas to avoid confusion
- Don’t punctuate dates (for example, “2 October, 2019” → “Wednesday 2 October 2019”)
Use apostrophes for:
- Omissions, such as contractions (for example “we’ll”)
- Possessive nouns (for example “in one month’s time”)
- Marking plural characters (for example “p’s” and “q’s”).
Don’t use apostrophes for plural abbreviations or decades (for example CDs or 1990s).
Use proper quotation marks —
” — instead of prime marks (
- Use single quotation marks when quoting a person or a source, or to punctuate unusual or colloquial expressions
- Use double quotation marks when quoting within a quote
Only use hyphens (
-) for hyphenation.
- Use a hyphen when the second word is “up” or when the first and second words end and start with the same letter
- Don’t use a hyphen if the first word of a compound is an adverb ending in “ly”
- Don’t hyphenate “login” or “sign in”
Use en dashes (
–) only for denoting ranges (for example “1 – 100”), however prefer using “to” instead (for example “1 to 100”).
Where possible thin-space the en dash (via its HTML entity code).
Use em dashes (
—) sparingly to add a related idea to a sentence — use with care to avoid creating very long sentences.
Use regular spaces on either side of the em dash.
Avoid using semicolons — use simpler sentences, em dashes, or a list instead.
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- Use ellipses (
…) when deliberately ommitting or truncating something
- Only use the at-sign (@) for email addresses, social media handles, and @mentions
- Don’t use exclamation marks
Use the HTML5
<abbr> element to mark up abbreviations.
Wrap the first instance of that
<abbr> in a definition element (
<dfn>) which represents the defining instance of that term.
Limit use of ampersands to headings, subheadings, and navigation labels or graphics.
Avoid Latin abbreviations.
Instead use expanded English, for example:
- “eg” → “for example” 🙃
- “etc” → rewrite so the user doesn’t have to guess what “etc” may refer to, include, and exclude.
Don’t use “ie”, “nb”, “cf”, “viz” or other more obscure abbreviations.
Feb 8, 2023
Write dates and times consistently to reduce confusion for our global users.
This guidance describes formatting (human-readable) dates and times in short-form, long-form, and relatively (eg. “2 hours ago”).
Use this guidance to configure the ISO formatting output of datetime libraries. Use standardized front-end datetime helpers that emit the “(date) time
Standard date format
Use the full humanized formatting when using dates in sentences or headings.
We usually format starting with the day, month, then the year. So on the 2nd day of the month October, in the year 2022, the date can be written as:
- 2 Oct 2022
- Wed 2 Oct 2022
- 2 October 2022
- Wednesday 2 October 2022
- Don’t punctuate dates (for example, “2 October, 2022” → “Wednesday 2 October 2022”)
- Write dates as cardinal numbers (2 October), not ordinal numbers (2nd October).
- You can omit the year if the event occurs on the same year (for example, “2 October”, or “Wednesday 2 October”)
Use the shorter ISO 8601 format for setting many dates together such as in a table, as subdued/hint text where space is limited, or as tertiary information. This is interpreted as
YYYY-MM-DD, for example:
16 January 2022 is represented as 2022-01-16
Standard time format
Use ‘am’ and ‘pm’ in lowercase when referencing time in sentences or headings with a space in between. This is interpreted as
HH:MM am/pm for example:
- Remove the proceeding ‘0’ in single digit hours (for example, “02:30 pm” → “2:30 pm”)
Use the 24 hour time format when referring to system-driven communication such as outages or system time. This is intepreted as
HH:MM and in some instances where the exact time is critical,
HH:MM:SS, for example:
- Keep the proceeding ‘0’ in single digit hours (for example, “4:13” → “04:13”)
All dates and times presented to the user should be localized in their own timezone relative to the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
When humanizing a relative date and time, supplement it with a tooltip expanding the reference time and date in the users local timezone. For example:
- 6 days ago (tooltip: “2022-03-30, 04:41:06 UTC”)
- 3 weeks ago (tooltip: “2022-07-16, 08:59:18 AEST)
Date and time ranges
When displaying date or time ranges, use ‘to’ — not hyphens, en or em
dashes, for example:
- 2 Oct 2022 to 30 Oct 2022
- 2:30 pm to 7:45 am
- 15:15 to 07:55
- Use a single am or pm if both times occur in am or pm (for example, 6:30 to 7:45 am)
Displaying date and time together
When displaying date and time, format starting with date then time and a comma between the date and time, for example:
- Sunday 25 October 2022, 7:41 pm
- 2022-05-25, 18:35
Date time quick reference guide
Feb 8, 2023
|Date and time formats
- Wednesday 2 October 2022, 7:41 pm
- Wed 2 Oct 2022, 7:41 pm
- 2 Oct, 7:41 pm (If it occurs in the same year)
- 2022-10-02, 07:41
|Use 24 hour time formats or am/pm
|When referencing a relative date and time
- 2022-03-30, 04:41:06 ET
- 30 Mar 2022, 04:41:06 AEST
- 30 March 2022, 04:41:06 UTC
- 2 Oct 2022 to 22 Nov 2022
- 2022-04-14 to 2022-07-01
- 14:30 to 19:45
- 5:55 to 8:27 am
- 2:19 am to 3:54 pm
|Truncated date formats
- Fri 5 Jan 2022
- 5 Jan 2020
Table adapted from the Australian Government’s Digital Content Guide Writing style: Plain English entry.
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|Don’t write this
||Write this instead
|a number of
||some, many, few
|address this issue
||look for solutions, solve this problem
|adequate number of
|as a consequence of
|at a later date
|at this point in time
||aware of, know
|create a dialogue with
||say what you are doing, for example “testing …”
|despite the fact that
||documents (unless referring to software documentation)
|due to the fact that
||because, since, as
|during the month of August
||create, set-up, form
||look at, check, discuss
|give consideration to
||think about, consider
|have the capacity to
||set, create, decide on, know, recognise
|if this is not the case
|if this is the case
|in accordance with
||in line with
||apply, install, do – where possible be specific
|in order to
|in receipt of
||get, have, receive, receiving
|in relation to
|in the event of, in the event that
|in the light of, in view of
|it is requested that you declare
||you should declare
|it should be noted that
||note that, remember that
|key, important, primary
||use, build on
|make an application
|make a complaint
||even though, though
|provide a response to
|provide assistance with
|reach a decision
||need or must
|that is the reason why
||that is why
|the way in which
|the reason is because
||because, the reason is
|until such time as
|whether or not
|with reference to, with regard to, with respect to
Use the spelling of industry and technical terms as given in the Bugcrowd Glossary.