Word Choices and Language in UX, Part One: Introduction & the Meaty Bits

Zama, by Antonia Di Benedetto / Translated by Esther Allen


We’re going to kick off by taking a look at this book, “Zama,” by Antonio Di Benedetto. This is a classic Argentine novel, recently translated from Spanish into English for the first time by translator Esther Allen.

Illustration by Martin Deschambault.

Strategy & Processes

  • Information Architecture
  • Personas

User Interfaces

  • Labels
  • Messages

The Meaty Bits

When I learn something new, I like to really dig into the meaty bits. Knowing the why gives me a better understanding of the path to the how.

  • What’s my environment?
  • What’s my place in it?
  • What actions can I take?

Words give us the power of evocative expression

Words have inherent emotional connotations. Take the word “cozy.” You might not visualize a roaring fire or cookies baking in the oven the same way I would, but there’s an emotional weight that you can feel when you read it.

Words give us the ability to categorize

Words help us understand how things are connected or distinct. Take the words “captain” and “players.” These two words help us distinguish the complex relationship between these two categories of athletes: their similarities, their differences, and even the power dynamics and behavioral expectations.

Words help us express complex concepts

We can use a single word to communicate complex ideas. We can lean on words to draw parallels in understanding and express new concepts or teach new ideas using existing knowledge. The concept of a “trash” or “recycling bin” on a computer, for example, was a brilliant metaphor for explaining a workflow where files could be deleted from the system, but remain temporarily accessible for restoration if necessary.

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