Soft skills that’ll make you hard to ignore as a UX writer

Bala Meenakshisundaram
7 min readJun 11, 2021

“UX writing is a young field.” “Companies need to invest in content design.” “UX writing is a bottleneck to an otherwise smooth development process.” “Why do we need a UX writer? The designer can write the words.” “We don’t have enough UX writers”— we’ve heard a lot of opinions and comments about UX writing and UX writers.

And it’s only human to be influenced by such opinions — for better or for worse. But it’s for that precise reason that you need to try and be even more unbiased, that extra bit approachable, and overall likable. Because you’re not just shapeing other people’s opinion of yourself, but of the entire fraternity of writers who are trying to make their mark in this new field.

You may be the best linguist for miles, the God of grammar and syntax, and a true wizard with words. But if you don’t win the respect and faith of your colleagues (even those with the not-so-favorable opinions about you or your work), you’re in for a rough ride. And you’re making it that much harder for all of us, everywhere.

So, whether you’re trying to land a job as a UX writer, or if you’re trying to make the best of the opportunity given to you and be seen and heard, here are some skills that will go a long way in helping you get noticed for the right reasons. None of these relate to your skills as a writer. These are traits as a person, a professional, and a human being, that you need to possess or practice to be noticed, taken seriously, valued, and respected.

Shun your ego

Writers are proud folk. I know I sure am. We don’t do it because we can’t do anything else. I mean, there’s usually genuine passion in and towards what we do. That’s why most of us become writers. That’s why we sit and argue endlessly about the Oxford comma or splitting infinitives. And that passion almost always goes hand in hand with pride. This pride is a tricky weapon. It can be a clever deterrent or the harbinger of Armageddon.

But like all processes of value, this one also starts from within. You need to learn to lose that cloak of pride before you walk into any room for any discussion about any piece of copy. In my own personal experience, I’ve found that cloak more harmful than beneficial. Of course, there’s always a time to stand your ground. But those hills that you’d rather die on, should be picked after much thought.

When you shun your ego or bring it down to a low simmer (let’s face it, it’s not gonna go away completely) it immediately does some magic — tunnel vision becomes fish-eye all of a sudden. Your other senses get heightened. And most importantly, you start learning something every minute and growing together with the others.

I’m so glad that I currently have the privilege of working with some of the most brilliant yet down-to-earth bunch of writers I’ve ever met. We all have our titles, our backgrounds, and varied experiences, but not once have we waved that in each others’ faces. All mentions of our paths have been focused on our trials, troubles, successes, and learnings — throw in the odd fun anecdote or two.

Listen — Keep an open mind

When I said above that your other senses get heightened, I meant it. When you simmer down, you’re in a calmer and more open state of mind. Suddenly you’re hearing more, thinking more — take advantage of that. React less and respond better. Who knows? You may have a burning question in your head and somebody might just be spilling the answer for you even without you asking!

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

~ Stephen R. Covey

Listening is one of the most attractive social skills anybody can possess. It instantly gets you noticed and when you listen to others, chances are, when it’s your turn to speak, they’re more likely to return you the favor. And you’ll need that for the next step.

Collaborate — every chance you get

When you’ve listened, and you’re being listened to in return, your thoughts are getting a stage. That’s the ultimate goal here. But, don’t make it a monologue or a soliloquy. Those are boring. Make it an improv. Pull others on stage with you. Share the spotlight and the opportunity with them. Let them be heard as well.

And do you know whom people like more than a good listener? Somebody who doesn’t hog the spotlight and tries to make it all about themselves. Somebody who makes sure others are heard as well.

Logically speaking, if one mind is good, more must simply be better. Besides, it’s easier to have multiple people present and collaborating, colliding their various ideas and perspectives, to extract that one rare, sub-atomic particle of absolute delight for your customers, than to run around in circles at light speed trying to be all of them at once and burning yourself out in the end.

Remember, just because you collaborate, doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing. It in fact suggests the opposite — that you’re sure enough about yourself to bring others into the fray.

Be your hardest critic

Nobody is loved or respected more than somebody who can own up and call themselves out on their mistakes. The best ones even manage to make a joke out of it. This needs two things: one is the shunning of ego like we discussed earlier, and the other is the ability to look at one’s own work objectively, without bias or prejudice. This is hard for many writers.

I mean, our brain gets used to our work and can easily skim over our little errors or major blunders alike. That’s the whole point of having a review process and a redundant set of eyes on. But we don’t always need to wait for somebody to spot our mistakes. We can do it ourselves the moment we realize we’ve made them.

This helps in a couple of ways: First, you beat the others to it, and secondly, you establish that you’re a fair critic with your ego on a very low simmer. And the cherry on top? You make the others go “Wow! This person is something else.” People stop and notice and may even stare. And that’s good because then you have their attention and you can communicate with them further.

Talk about your work

And that would be a good time to talk about your work — mistakes and all. Not in a braggy, ‘I’m the man’ kinda way. But in a humble, matter of fact kinda way. “This was the problem, here’s what I did about it, here’s why, and this is how I think it will help us.” — let the facts do the bragging for you.

I struggle with this myself. I’m not a talker. I come from a part of the world where any talk about what one has done or achieved, is considered to be borderline narcissism. But I’ve come to realize that this is not true everywhere, and that it’s actually a very vital part of our jobs. We can’t expect everybody to take the time to notice us and our work — that’s actually mildly narcissistic, if you think about it.

Remember that pride that we brought down to a warm simmer earlier? That would come in handy here to help you get started. I mean, you need to feel proud of what you’ve done, to be able to share it with others, right? So be proud of your work. Every day. Celebrate yourself and your little achievements, and share them with the others for them to understand and appreciate. And they WILL understand and appreciate.

TL;DR (sorry about that)

  • bring your ego down to a nurturing simmer
  • keep an open mind and be an active listener
  • be willing and eager to work together with others, share the spotlight, give everybody around you a voice and make sure they’re heard
  • be objective about your work and embrace criticism from others and yourself
  • get everybody interested in what you do by talking about your work and sharing it with them

These five skills, when rightly mastered, can help you go a long way in winning the hearts and minds of those whom you need to work with. Feel free to spice up this base recipe with whatever else works for you as well. Good luck!