Use verbs to help drive users through our content. Make it dynamic by using an imperative, active voice.

Use verbs and actions instead of nouns formed from verbs (nominalizations).

We will investigate your complaint.

We will conduct an investigation into your complaint.

Verbs in interface and documentation content

When instructing users to take an action with an input device (such as a mouse, keyboard, or voice), opt for a generic word such as select. Words such as clicktap, or swipe suggest actions that may not be possible for people using certain devices or assistive technology.

Use the same verbs that the UI displays. Don't switch between verbs that have a similar meaning, as you'll confuse the reader. For example, the UI uses the verb delete, so don't use the word remove.

In instructional content, begin your sentence with a verb and use the imperative. Don't add vague words such as can or could, or phrases such as you might want to

Always opt for imperative verbs over gerunds and be direct.

Log in with your email address

Using your email address will let you log in

Ensure that users enter data in the right format.

You might want to make sure that users enter data in the right format.

Ensure or make sure? 

Ensure is slightly more formal than make sure, and it keeps the sentence concise. 

In content such as a blog post or an email subject line, make sure might be appropriate (Make sure you register for AKO today). Better yet, in keeping with our clear, direct style, opt for an imperative verb (Register for AKO today). 

If there's a verb/clause after ensure, use the subordinating conjunction that (Ensure that your model works). 

If a noun follows the word ensure, no that is necessary (ensure accuracy).

Reporting verbs

In most cases where clauses follow reporting verbs such as show, demonstrate, or indicate, the word that acts as a complementizer and should stay.

Modal verbs

Use the modal verb must instead of should or you/you'll will need to.

You must have a module with a line item that has the format List.

You'll need to have a module with a line item that has the format List.

See also: Active and passive voice

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