Microcopy — Neon Words

Microcopy: small words, big impact

Microcopy is the unsung hero that ties brand experiences together, without ever taking over.

Sometimes it’s a prompt or a subhead. Sometimes it’s a tooltip. Sometimes, it just lurks unobtrusively, waiting for the right person to read it.

And when you use it right, it means that every single word uttered by your brand is… well — on brand.

What does microcopy do?

Lots. I won’t write a list, since it’d be long. And boring.

But I’ll surface two of the crucial points.

1. Making people feel at ease

Spotify Screenshot
Spotify gives me a lot of comfort with just four extra words: “Only visible to you.”

It’s totally clear that my guilty pleasures are reserved for my eyes only. And my reputation for impeccable taste remains unstained. (Thanks, Spotify. It’s our little secret.)

2. Getting people to do things

Pretty words won’t get you all the way. Microcopy, in many of its various forms, gets reactions. And one of its most important roles is sealing the deal.

No doubt your flawless copy has already convinced a customer to buy what you’re selling. But without a clear path forward, they’ll stumble.
Get Spot — Button Microcopy
I’m quite keen on Spot Insurance’s no-nonsense approach. Its CTAs make it crystal-clear what you’re doing, while fitting into the high-energy brand tone.

Microcopy, microtone

As ever, it’s not just what you say, but the way you say it. Even the shortest button text can convey a lot about your brand.

Here’s how things might shift between a very traditional, and very young, brand’s approaches. They’re pretty generic examples, so take them with a big pinch of salt. (And an even bigger pinch of your brand’s tone.)


·   Buy Now

·   Contact Us

·   Close Window


·   I Want It!

·   Let’s Chat

·   I’m Done Here


Sometimes, the cheekiest microcopy works a treat (for the right brands). For example, Aphex Twin’s microsite uses ‘Buy’ buttons which are far from serious — matching the mischievous public persona the musician has cultivated over the years.

But whatever your style, don’t forget that it needs to be instantly obvious what you’re saying. As ever, don’t make your users think. And always run everything through A/B tests — especially if you’re trying anything a bit quirky — to make sure you’re not damaging performance unexpectedly.

Sometimes plainer is better, but it depends so much on the context, placement, design (and everything else) that you’ll never really know without testing.

Say those three words I’ve been dying to hear

“Conversion rates up.”

All thanks to microcopy. And as a copywriter, I often feel like it’s not talked about enough.

We all like to cheer a great brand name or strapline, or spend time brooding over a new campaign direction.

Let’s give microcopy more love.

Because, very quietly, it ends up doing a lot of the heavy lifting.