Happy Writing

happy face writing happy Reading Time: 2 minutes

According to a Google search for, “happiest language in the world” the happiest language is Spanish. Chinese is the least happy. Could this help explain why developers, designers and writers working in English are among the most miserable b’stards online? 


The following is a random example from the Tesco.com homepage that offers just two lines of copy before bombarding our reader with promotions.

Tesco.com first customer-facing text on Tesco.com April 23, 2021

[headline level 1] Good morning

Sign in for the best experience. Not a customer yet? Register

(2 + 11 words)

It’s a great start for an existing customer wanting to sign in and for the visitor:

  • “Not” is a negative word.
  • “Yet” meaning by now; still; not even. What are we saying about our visitor’s intelligence or life choices?
  • The orphaned and kurt link to, “Register” is hardly inviting? It’s an instruction with no value proposition.

Okay, the copy is clear and concise and where’s the value? Does it accurately convey a delightful environment, service, and experience or invite interaction with Tesco? Let’s jolly this up and add the value proposition to support the brand.

A suggested update to Tesco’s first customer-facing text on Tesco.com April 23, 2021

[headline level 2] Good morning

Sign in or Register for the best online grocery shopping experience.

(2 + 12 words)

That better? We could play with the exact copy all day and already we’ve:

  • Maintained the interaction primacy of existing customers. This could be reversed?
  • Removed the negative language.
  • Offered a reason to register (the value proposition).
  • Added only 1 to the word count.

Note: The Headline level 1 is updated to Headline level 2. “Good Morning” is welcoming and timely to our visit and doesn’t describe the page content.

A suitable h1 can be rendered invisible and orient screen readers to the page structure. There’s an h1 already on the page too, which certainly justifies the code update to h2.

Negative Words

When your writing contains one or more of the following words your writing may be negative. There are others.

Replace with “and”.
Will it, or won’t it. Don’t we know. Use “When” and then “if” when there’s an else statement.
Reserve for only special occasions when we can’t spin the context more positively.
Does it or doesn’t it? When we design it then it will!
Be wary of what we are proposing.


Our choice of words and phrases is as important to our users’ experience as your graphics or information architecture. In fact, it is more so because everyone can read content accessible to the DOM and not everyone can experience the full impact of art direction. 

Note: I didn’t mean to pick only on Tesco. I had a list of big brands to analyse and found such a melee of accessibility and architectural issues I simply couldn’t be bothered. Not before they pay me. Currys and Waitrose among them: typos in essential alternative text copy only demonstrate sloppy attention to detail by the developers, designers, and writers. (Sigh).

Happy writing! And we don’t mean writing more of the happy talk described by Steve Krug in his book, Don’t Make Me Think Revisited!


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