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I noticed that the microcopy tag has been made a synonym of copywriting. I disagree with this because microcopy is a very specific form of copywriting - it deals mostly with very small instances of copy like button labels, calls to action, and so forth, and is something that interface designers must deal with daily as opposed to copywriting itself, which often has a dedicated copywriter or content strategist.

I think we should view these as distinct, separate tags, allowing questions to be tagged as such and people to find them as being separate topics.

What do you think?

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    Agreed. If anything microcopy is probably the more commonly relevant tag to UX people... – Ben Brocka Oct 3 '11 at 12:38
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    Agreed. "Classical" copywriting would be pretty much off topic here. – Vitaly Mijiritsky Oct 3 '11 at 19:35
  • Agreed. (Needed 3 in a row). Seriously though, I think of microcopy as Rahul described it and I am convinced the skill sets are different. For example, I am not particularly good at microcopy, but fairly proficient at anything larger a sentence or two. – JohnGB Oct 5 '11 at 13:06
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    Okay, I think I get it now. Copywriting is really about advertising. It's not just the act of writing copy. (I assumed "copywriting" was just a way to avoid confusion with the copy command -- until I read the Wikipedia article more carefully.) – Patrick McElhaney Oct 7 '11 at 19:36
  • copywriting isn't just about advertising. You need a good copywriter to write help text, for example. – Erics Nov 10 '11 at 10:21
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As far as I can tell, the term microcopy was coined by Joshua Porter (Bokardo).

Ironically, the smallest bits of copy, microcopy, can have the biggest impact.

Microcopy is small yet powerful copy. It’s fast, light, and deadly. It’s a short sentence, a phrase, a few words. A single word. It’s the small copy that has the biggest impact. Don’t judge it on its size…judge it on its effectiveness.

By that definition, it seems all of our questions are about microcopy. Where do we draw the line?

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    I was noticing this too, I revently tagged a few questions as "copywriting" because before now I never really looked into the definition of microcopy. I suppose in how we use them that're practically synonyms, even if we're learning more to the definition of microcopy than copywriting. – Ben Brocka Oct 3 '11 at 14:23
  • Good point - hadn't realised I may have picked it up from Josh. Asking him on Twitter. – Rahul Oct 3 '11 at 14:32
  • Joshua says it originates from him, so perhaps we could reinstate the tag and mention his blog post in the tag wiki? – Rahul Oct 3 '11 at 16:10
  • @Rahul I think we should link to that post in the tag wiki for copywriting (which, ironically, isn't very good at the moment :-)) but I'm still not seeing the need for a separate microcopy tag. – Patrick McElhaney Oct 3 '11 at 16:56
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I'll disagree that "classical" copywriting has no place on the UX SE.

IMHO, copy is just as much a part of the UX as anything else. Microcopy (as defined by JohnGB) and classical copy (the content of the product, the messaging, the prose) are what truly give the user something to experience. Without content, it's just design.

I'm not downplaying the importance of page flow, proper color usage, clean design, use of contrast, etc., and a misplay of any of those items can certainly damage the UX, but I'd argue that copy is a huge part of it.

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  • Agreed - copy is UX. I think that further underlines the need for a distinction. – Rahul Oct 5 '11 at 14:31
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    Agreed, but the issue here is a little more complicated. What would the average user be thinking of when they say copywriting or microcopy? I think there is enough confusion between the two that we should make them synonyms. – JohnGB Oct 5 '11 at 14:47
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    I guess I didn't really speak to the issue at hand! (-1). For the average user, I agree there doesn't seem to be a need for a distinction between "microcopy" and "copywriting," but to a UX professional/enthusiast, the two certainly mean different things. – Joel Salisbury Oct 5 '11 at 14:56
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    That said, maybe "microcopy" could be referred to as "labeling" or something similar. Labeling is different from the core messaging of the UI. – Joel Salisbury Oct 5 '11 at 14:58
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    I wouldn't call it labeling, microcopy is often extra bits of info to answer a question greater than "what is this field or item" – Ben Brocka Oct 5 '11 at 16:13
  • Noted. Good point! – Joel Salisbury Oct 5 '11 at 17:02
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From what I see of the definitions pointed to here, I would propose to turn the synonyms around.

@Vitaly Mijiritsky commented that the classical definition of "copywriting" is mainly off-topic here.

@Patrick McElhaney said in his answer:

.. it seems all of our questions are about microcopy.

So maybe it should be that should be re-tagged to , and not the other way around?

So if it is actually "copywriting" the question is about, it should
not be tagged , but closed as off topic...

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    I chose copywriting as the master tag because copywriting is an established word, whereas microcopy neogolism. – Patrick McElhaney Oct 5 '11 at 13:32
  • All our copywriting questions are currently about microcopy, but that doesn't mean all copywriting questions are about microcopy. – Rahul Oct 5 '11 at 13:32
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    +1 Because it's a good point. To me, what's most important is that we don't split a tag that covers about 2% of our questions without a compelling reason. What we end up calling the single tag is a secondary concern. – Patrick McElhaney Oct 5 '11 at 13:46
  • @Rahul: Can you provide an example of what you mean? It will help me (and maybe others) to understand where you are coming from on this topic. – gef05 Oct 5 '11 at 13:59
  • @GaryFranceschini Just because we have some questions that are currently about microcopy doesn't mean that every question in the future will be about microcopy. Therefore I think there's validity in having a distinction. – Rahul Oct 5 '11 at 14:25
  • @Rahul. I get that - but can you offer an example of the distinction? – gef05 Oct 6 '11 at 10:56
  • A question about copywriting could ask UX experts to evaluate whether some long form text A is more effective at communicating a concept than text B. A question about microcopy would focus on a page title, button label, call to action, or other micro instance of copy. The former is clearly about copywriting whereas the latter is better served by a specific denomination. – Rahul Oct 6 '11 at 11:53
  • An on-topic question for long form copywriting might be one about writing copy to set a particular mood or channel a particular experience. – Erics Nov 10 '11 at 10:31
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While I found Joshua's blog post to be a good informative read, I'm seeing nothing that suggests we need two tags - copywriting and microcopy.

Issues:

  • no matter how compelling a single blogger's post may be, we should not react immediately as though it is gospel. This is, I believe, what has happened with the creation of the microcopy tag
  • there is nothing in Joshua's post that suggests different skills are required for text elements he describes as microcopy. All the good practices that copywriters follow apply.
  • further to my second point, all copy has what could be called "microcopy". Open a 1000 page manual and it will be full of such text elements. Does it require different skills? No. It requires good copywriting skills.

I'd remove the microcopy tag.

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  • Taking a useful suggestion from the community and using it as a descriptor isn't "reacting as though it is gospel". It's just a good idea for a way to describe something we do. – Rahul Oct 5 '11 at 13:31
  • We'll have to disagree on that point, Rahul. – gef05 Oct 5 '11 at 14:01
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    I don't believe we can disagree :-) You're implying that I took Joshua's blog post to be gospel in my creation of the microcopy tag; I'm saying that's not correct. Instead, I'm explaining that I took his suggestion and used it because I think it's a good idea. – Rahul Oct 5 '11 at 14:27
  • Dammit, Rahul. Stop being so reasonable. :) – gef05 Oct 7 '11 at 12:49
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I think a lot here may have to do with how we are defining what each is. I don't think there is anything definitive, so I'll give my take and we can hopefully come to some consensus by beating that with a large stick.

Microcopy relates mostly to how you would describe or explain something in one to three words, and is not strictly speaking a full sentence. Labelling a button; giving a tootlip; etc.

Copywriting is a general term, but when talking about UI's (which is most often what we do here) I think of it as anything that is full sentences and up. This would be anything from a twitter post to a blog to an email.

/me now hands the big stick over to the next person to beat it with.

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