Copy style guide (English)


This style guide is intended for all persons writing copy for Novius OS: applications developers and designers, contributors to the core, translators. It establishes guidelines common to all applications and languages in order to provide every Novius OS user with consistent and enjoyable copy.

This guide is based on Aaron Walter’s design personas. MailChimp’s Voice and Tone guide, created by Walter’s team, has also been a source of inspiration.

About translation

Translation is more than just a word-to-word job. One must remain faithful to the original design while adapting it for a new audience, for a different culture. A literal translation of Novius OS copy does not make sense. The translation must read as if the copy had originally been written in the target language. The first document to translate are these guidelines so that a localised style guide is available.

Personality and tone

Novius OS is designed for professionals. They don’t use it for fun, they have a job to do. Novius OS must show its users they share a common goal: to get the job done as efficiently as possible. Novius OS therefore adopts a professional and straight-to-the-point tone.

This said, using Novius OS doesn’t have to be boring. The usual flavourless software speech (e.g. Please enter a valid value) is to be avoided. We don’t Novius OS to be seen as yet another tool.

Novius OS can make its users smile—especially when they succeeded in carrying out their job—but not laugh. The software is not their friend. It is rather a trustworthy and knowledgeable colleague they’re happy to work with. A team of colleagues actually, as Novius OS says ‘We’ not ‘I’.

Finally, although many Novius OS followers are developers, copy must be jargon-free. What’s more, bro-ish tone (e.g Sorry dude, I screwed up!) is inappropriate.

Personality traits

  • Professionnal but not boring.
  • Straight-to-the-point but not bossy.
  • Consistent but not repetitive.
  • Friendly but not bro-ish.
  • Knowledgeable but not haughty.

English language

Novius OS is written in British English. So could you please be kind enough to restrain from using the spelling ‘Media Center’ instead of the more gentrified ‘Media Centre’?

For quotation marks, we follow the rule given by Oxford Dictionnaries —single inverted commas e.g. ‘Hello world’. Besides please use apostrophes (’) not the prime symbol (‘).

Copy examples

Sign in:Let’s get started!
Log out:Sign out (see you!)
Add new item:Add a new page [1]
Save an item:Save [1]
New item added:All done! The blog post has been added. [2]
Item updated:OK, changes are saved. [2]
User mistake:You must add a title for the product to be saved. Sorry about that! [3]
System error:Something went wrong. Please try again and contact your developer or Novius OS if the problem persists. We apologise for the inconvenience caused. [4]
Error prevention (warning):
 Answers to this form have already been received. Modifying the form may alter the collected data. [5]
Error prevention (confirm button):
 Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing. [5]
[1](1, 2) No need to say more. We want clearly labelled primary actions.
[2](1, 2) A little diversity is welcome as long as the style is consistent. E.g. ‘There you go!’, ‘All wrapped up!’ or ‘Great!’ to start a success message.
[3]Don’t assume this is the user’s fault. Maybe it wasn’t very clear the field was mandatory.
[4]Don’t ’Oops!’ the user. She/he might have lost time or data.
[5](1, 2) When you need the user to pay attention, get her/him involved by turning the copy into a conversation.
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