Buffer Tone Guide

Recommended ways to write more engaging communications online. This is a great reference from the teams at Buffer and MailChimp.
  • Many customer interactions will include instructions. As a general guideline, invite them to take these steps. Try not to tell them. And make it easy for them to say no. This doesn’t have to end in a question mark, as long as it’s an invitation instead of a command.
  • We always try to take blame for any confusion or problem. In general, if you can avoid “you” or “your” when diagnosing the problem, stick with that. This applies also for third party troubles. When in a fault-pinch, eliminate pronouns entirely with passive voice. And don’t hesitate to use the word “sorry.”
  • Feel free to use the word Sorry, and address the end result for the customer, not the end result for us, if possible.
  • Our customers are some of the kindest around, and they’re totally cool. Address them like pals who you respect. (As you would speak to a Buffer team mate.) Also, if you’re expressing an emotion in a 1:1 communication, use “I” instead of “we.” When in doubt, speak for yourself and not on behalf of the whole company, as it is more honest.
  • Warm, friendly, and approachable. Use names whenever possible. Try to invite a reply without demanding one.
  • I have found that my body language affects my writing. In preparation for an email that’s going to need great empathy, I sometimes try to sit forward, like I’m leaning into the conversation, not back, as if I’m feeling defensive. It may work for you to hold your hands facing up and your shoulders relaxed as you read the customer email, not with your arms crossed.
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