Tone of voice

Imagine GoCardless as a person. We have a voice; we should always be coherent across different touchpoints. But, the tone of our voice changes depending on who we're speaking to and the subject matter.

This idea of changing tones is perfect for aligning our language to our two different audience types, small and mid+ audiences. We don't need to change our voice, but our tone has to change and adapt.

Our tone of voice is for everyone at GoCardless and for anyone else who wants to read it. Be it in written words, like on our website, email communication or advertising, or even how we talk to our customers in person.

Our principles for writing

Be plainspoken

We should aim to be plainspoken at all times. We should avoid long-winded metaphors and puns; it's just not us. Our goal is to help navigate our readers through the payments landscape, making the difficult seem easy.

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Have a purpose and move quickly

Write with a purpose in mind. Why should anyone care about what you're writing? Find the essence of your message and reveal it early. Don't make the reader wait.

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Use fewer words

Words are powerful. Use them sparingly to tell a message in as fewer words as possible. The more you have, the less likely the message will land. Ideally, sentences should be no more than 14-20 words.

As with everything we do, subtract until you have a simple message that is easy to understand. One way is to use fewer nouns and more verbs. For example, instead of saying 'we have made the decision to', say 'we decided to'.

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Be empathatic

If you're writing a sensitive message, think about the audience and who will read it. Be honest and structure our writing clearly to allow the reader the headspace to understand why we need their attention.

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Be jargon free

There's no need for jargon. Big words are not necessary; industry-specific terms can be confusing. As before, be empathetic and write in a way that makes sense to everyone. Pick words that people actually use.

For example, instead of using the word 'resolve' use 'fix'. Instead of 'assistance' use 'help'. Usually (but not always),words with fewer letters are easier to understand.

It also helps to use active over passive language to remove ambiguity and to be as direct as possible.

  • Instead of
  • This problem will be fixed shortly.
  • Maybe say
  • We’ll fix the problem shortly.

Write for speed

Most people don't read from beginning to end. With this in mind, we should write with speed-reading. The best way to do this is by structuring your writing clearly and making use of visual cues, like sub-headings.

The beauty of sub-headings is speed. You get the essence of the message, quickly. The reader can simply skim the page for words that resonate, and dig deeper into that section.

Another way to optimise for speed is by using bullet points. Keep these short in word length, short in the number of bullets and most of all, related.

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Take pride and be humble

Our mission is important to us. Take pride when you write and be positive. We're here for our customers. Ensure we stay humble and don't come across as patronising. Even when some conversations may be tricky, remember we're here for them.

This is a guide, not a rule book.

The tone of voice aims to help bring coherency to how we write and speak. It is not by any means a rule book to be followed by the letter. Aim to write like you, within the guidelines of GoCardless. Note like a robot following a set of rules.

The principles described are for everything. But, we want to be a little more explicit on how to write for the two distinct audiences.

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How to write for small business

Feel free to have some fun. Write more conversationally and throw in the odd exclamation mark for emphasis! Emoji can be used sparingly, drop them in from time to time for sincerity and impact. Don't overuse them or use them instead of words.

  • Instead of
  • Avoid awkward conversations regarding late payments
  • Maybe say
  • Dodge embarassing chats about late payments
  • Instead of
  • Frustrated about not being paid on time?
  • Maybe say
  • Fed up by not being paid on time?

How to write for mid to enterprise business

Be intelligent with a hint of dry humour

We must strive to be thoughtful and creative when speaking with this audience. We're aiming to bethought-leaders, to say less, but of better value. We're fans of the Economist magazine, creating smart and imaginative messaging.

  • Instead of
  • Grow your coffee business
  • Maybe say
  • From coffee beans to coffee factories
  • Instead of
  • Less administration means more time for your business
  • Maybe say
  • Less time on admin, more time on your business

Things to remember

Sentence case not title case. Ever.

We write using sentence case, and never use Title Case. It's contemporary, easier to read and our preferred way to write.

GoCardless not 'GC'

When writing about GoCardless, please use the correct name. GC is shorthand and should only be used, if at all, internally.

Direct Debit not 'DD'

Again please use the full name when speaking about a fundamental mechanism.

Fintech not Fin Tech

Commonly misspelt, it's one word and does not have a space or capital T.

SaaS not Saas

Please use an upper case 'S' at the start and end of a word. There's no need to spell out the full term.

SEPA and BECS in caps

These two schemes are spelt in full capitals, unlike Bacs, Autogiro and Betalingsservice.

Cash flow not 'cashflow' or 'cash-flow'

Commonly misspelt, it's two words, lowercase unless at the start of a sentence.

Dates with numerical digits

We refer to date periods in their purest form. For example, 5 September not '5th September' or '5th of September'.

Numbers

Write one to nine as words. From 10 onwards, please use numerical digits. The exception is where you are giving a number range. Don't mix a word and a digit, e.g. one to 10. In these instances stick to digits, e.g. 1 to 10.