The Psychology of Microcopy: 4 Techniques Every UX Writer Should Know

As of lately, I have been delving deeply into the intriguing field of microcopy in order to hone my craft. And since I am a big fan of all my practices being backed up by psychological research I went into exploration mode and dug up 4 techniques that I can add to my arsenal. Considering it's not cool to be selfish, I am going to share them with you in this short article.


Have you ever wondered whether the presence of rhyming words in a phrase or a sentence changes our perception of the received information? Is there a possibility that people are more likely to believe statements that contain a rhyme, compared to statements that don’t? The Rhyme-as-reason effect suggests exactly this. Using rhymes in phrases and sentences increases their perceived accuracy and trustworthiness when being compared to sentences with the same semantic meaning but without rhyming words. Moreover, these effects can be applied in microcopy in aphorism statements and advertising slogans(McGlone & Tofighbakhsh, 2000).

Here is an example of an advertising slogan for an environment-friendly bakery that uses biodegradable packaging. This has been implemented in the loading splash screen. Even though the screen and the statement stay up for just a few seconds, it is enough to suggest to the user that the company is eco-friendly and resource-efficient.

Eliminating The Concept Of Error

The term “human error” is often a human action that flags a deficit in our technology. This concept of error should be eliminated. Instead, we should assist users in translating their goals and plans into the appropriate form. The best designs seek to minimize opportunities for errors while also mitigating the consequences.

The way designers should deal with errors is by embracing them, understanding what causes them, and ensuring that they won’t repeat themselves. The user needs to feel assisted when interacting with the product. Not punished or scolded. Effective microcopy empathizes with the user and anticipates their expectations. It allows users to feel like they are having a conversation with the interface which in turn engages the user and increases conversions. Furthermore, it should make errors less costly and actions reversible(Norman, 2013).

The examples below exhibit how we can empower users by clearly describing what the error is, why it occurred, and giving options to overcome them.

The "Because" Factor

“Because” is a word that everyone uses on a daily basis. As a result of this, one wouldn’t think there is anything special about it. However, it has been proven that “because” is a trigger word that assigns credit and reinforces a valid reason for a request. Which in turn results in significantly more compliance(Langer, Blank & Chanowitz, 1978).

Here is an example of how you can combine this with approach motivation(positive desire) to make the user want to experience something or discover more of it.

Bizareness Effect

The “Bizarreness Effect” suggests that bizarre material is more likely to be remembered than common material. The effect itself does not enhance memory, however, Einstein et al. (2005) claim that bizarre information becomes distinctive. In turn, this distinctiveness makes encoding easier. This is a result of the tendency of the human brain to disregard ingesting already familiar information and its attunement to taking new information as an adaptation technique.

The image below is an example of how it can be used in the order confirmation screen of a food delivery app. The message itself fits the playful tone of the brand and is a play between the name of the product "dough", the word “doughnut” and the contraction "don’t ". The message serves two purposes. Firstly it emphasizes the speed and quality of the delivery service. Secondly, it is intended to make a playful and memorable impression on the user.

Final Note

What we can take from those examples is that even though microcopy is considered to be
“small words”, if used correctly could certainly pack a punch. It can have a hugely positive effect on both user experience and conversions. Creating consistently good microcopy proves to be a hard task due to the rapid advancements in both psychology and technology. In order to stay competitive, writers should keep up with the latest trends.


Einstein, G., McDaniel, M., Thomas, R., Mayfield, S., Shank, H., Morrisette, N., & Breneiser, J. (2005). Multiple Processes in Prospective Memory Retrieval: Factors Determining Monitoring Versus Spontaneous Retrieval. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: General , 134 (3), 327-342. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.134.3.327

Langer, E., Blank, A., & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of ostensibly thoughtful action: The role of "placebic" information in interpersonal interaction. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology , 36 (6), 635-642. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.36.6.635

McGlone, M., & Tofighbakhsh, J. (2000). Birds of a Feather Flock Conjointly (?): Rhyme as Reason in Aphorisms. Psychological Science , 11(5), 424-428. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00282

Norman, D. (2013). The design of everyday things. New York, NY: Basic Books.