Grammar and mechanics

This guide is to help designers, developers, recruiters, UX-ers, product managers, gurus—anyone who writes public-facing text for Shopify.


Basics

Active voice

You should (almost) always write in the active voice:

  • Subject (person/thing acting) verb (the action) object (receives the action)

Use the active voice if the merchant needs to do something. It should be clear that the subject is the one doing the action.

  • Add details to the product

  • Details were added to the product

Passive voice

To tell if you’re using the passive voice, look out for:

  • When the object comes before the subject (e.g. the item was purchased by the customer)
  • Past tense verbs (e.g. “was” added, “was” created, etc.)
  • Forms of the verb “to be” (e.g. was, is, were, etc.)

You should almost always write in the active voice, but here’s when to use the passive voice:

  • To avoid referring to yourself or Shopify
  • To make it clear that you didn’t personally take an action or make a decision
  • If the object (thing being done) is more important than the subject (person doing the thing)

Do

Invoices are created monthly and emailed to marki.yeung@nomail.com

Don’t

Shopify creates and emails your invoices monthly to simran.robichaud@nomail.com

Contractions

Contractions are abbreviated words. We use them to set a light and casual tone in the interface. The goal is to sound human, so avoid contracting verbs that sound awkward when you say them out loud, or have been phased out of modern day speech.

  • You can’t have products with negative weights

  • Your products don’t have weights

  • You’re all set up

  • This product doesn’t require shipping

  • The customer name shouldn’t contain numbers

  • It’s a good time to plan your Black Friday sale

  • An error occurred and your changes couldn’t be saved

  • I’m Kit, your digital marketing assistant

  • This transfer hasn’t been received

  • You haven’t connected your account

  • You’ve exceeded 10 password attempts

  • That’ll make sure you are all set up

  • It would’ve been possible if you’d installed the latest updates

  • The set up was not complete, but this’ll do

  • There’re 10 products in this collection

  • Your product mustn’t be more than 20kgs

  • This product needn’t be shipped

  • There are 3 visitors who’ve viewed this product

  • You gotta set up Shopify Payments to use Shopify Capital

  • It’d be a good idea to place an ad this weekend

Plain language

Use words and language that our merchants use. Avoid jargon or technical terminology. Make sure each sentence has a single focus and keep them short. Aim for a Grade 7 reading level.

  • We’ve made some changes to improve your store’s security

  • These products aren’t getting a lot of views, but visitors are adding them to their carts

  • Your SSL certificates were activated

  • These are your less popular products with the highest add-to-cart conversion



Capitalization

Headings

Use sentence case for all headings:

  • Capitalize the first word of a heading
  • Capitalize proper or trademarked nouns (e.g. names of products, countries, people)
  • Lowercase for everything else
  • Create purchase order

  • Create Purchase Order

Product and feature names

In general, if a feature or product isn’t unique to Shopify, don’t capitalize it (e.g. blogs, navigation, pages). If it’s unique to Shopify and marketable as its own product, capitalize it (e.g. Shopify Payments, Frenzy).

For all terms and definitions, check our full vocabulary list.

  • blogs

  • navigation

  • Shopify Payments

  • Blogs

  • Navigation

  • shopify payments

Job titles

Job titles should be capitalized when they come before or after a person’s name (e.g. Content Strategist Jane Smith or Jane Smith, Content Strategist). When referring to a job title without referencing a name, don’t capitalize the job title (e.g. Jane Smith is a content strategist at Shopify.)

  • Content Strategist Jane Smith

  • Jane Smith, Content Strategist

  • Jane Smith is a content strategist.

  • The content strategist designed the information architecture.

  • content strategist Jane Smith

  • Jane Smith, content strategist

  • Jane Smith is a Content Strategist

  • The Content Strategist redesigned the information architecture.

Letters following slashes

The first letter following a slash shouldn’t be capitalized.

  • Zip/postal code required

  • Zip/Postal code required


Headings and subheadings

Basic structure

Group related ideas together using descriptive headings and subheadings. Keep headings concise and easy to scan.

Articles in headings and subheadings

The use of articles (the, a, an) in headings depends on whether the message is conversational or action-based microcopy.

Conversational headings and subheadings

In more conversational sections of the interface, like Home cards, sell pages, and empty states, use articles. It makes the language more approachable and helps understanding when introducing new, complex concepts.

  • These customers are expected to spend the most at your store

  • Top customers

Microcopy headings and subheadings

In labels and microcopy, be concise and don’t use articles. It increases scannability and encourage immediate action.

  • Create collection

  • Create a collection

Punctuation in headings and subheadings

  • Don’t use periods at the end of headings
  • Commas (,), colons (:), and semicolons (;) are ok but not encouraged
  • Upload theme

  • Upload your theme.

Capitalization in headings and subheadings

Use sentence case (first word capitalized, the rest lowercase) for all headings:

  • Capitalize the first word of a heading
  • Capitalize proper nouns (e.g. names of products, countries, people)
  • Lowercase for everything else
  • Export abandoned checkouts

  • Export Abandoned Checkouts


Lists

Bulleted

Use a bulleted list when items are related but sequence or priority doesn’t matter.

Do

Use Shopify Payments to:

  • Avoid the hassle of setting up a third-party payment gateway
  • Track your payout schedule from the Shopify admin
  • Minimize lost sales from chargebacks

Don’t

Use Shopify payments to

  • avoid the hassle of setting up a gateway,
  • track pending payout schedule,
  • minimize lost sales from chargebacks. And eliminate PCI fees

Numbered

Use a numbered list when item sequence or priority does matter (procedures, etc.).

Do

To set up Shopify Payments:

  1. Go to Settings from Shopify admin
  2. Select Shopify Payments
  3. Select Setup

Don’t

To set up Shopify Payments:

  1. Go to Settings from Shopify admin Then select Shopify Payments
  2. Select Setup

Dropdown menus

Actions in a menu

Menu lists give users a horizontal set of actions when space is limited. The order of actions is often based on logic such as most popular actions.

Actions in a menu follow a {verb}+{noun} pattern. If there’s enough context, only a verb might be required.

  • Rename

  • Edit

  • HTML

  • Duplicate

  • HTML

  • editing options

  • File name changes

  • Duplicate this order so that you can make edits, updates, or changes

Nouns in a menu

Menu lists give users a horizontal set of nouns when space is limited. The order of nouns is often based on logic such as most recent orders.

Nouns in a menu should be concise but still give the user enough information so they can easily find and accurately select the item they want.

Do

Select filter

  • Today
  • Yesterday
  • This week
  • This month

Don’t

  • Filter visibility
  • Filter product type
  • Filter product vendor
  • Filter tagged with

Capitalization

  • List items always start with a capital letter.
  • Capitalization and punctuation rules apply to both bulleted and numbered lists.

Do

Company name

  • Hidden
  • Optional
  • Required

Don’t

Company name

  • hidden
  • optional
  • required

Punctuation

  • Introduce bulleted lists with a colon or a heading.
  • Don’t use commas at the end of list items (for bulleted or numbered lists).
  • If any list item contains two or more sentences, punctuate all list items.
  • If all list items are one sentence or fragments, don’t punctuate.
  • Never put a comma or semicolon at the end of a bulleted or numbered list item. Treat each list item as a self-contained piece of information.

Helper text and descriptions

If your list contains helper text, only the description below the list item should contain punctuation.

Do

While the customer is checking out:

  • Use the shipping address as the billing address by default
  • Reduces the number of fields required to check out. The billing address can still be edited.
  • Require a confirmation step Customers must review their order details before purchasing.

Don’t

  • Automatically capture payment for orders. Authorize and charge the customer’s credit card.
  • Manually capture payment for orders.
  • Authorize the customer’s credit card.

Dates and numbers

Date

When possible, use the month’s full name (e.g. October). If there are space constraints, use 3-letter abbreviations (e.g. Oct). Don’t write dates numerically (e.g. 07-02-14).

  • Thursday, October 15, 2015

  • October 15, 2015

  • Oct 15, 2015

  • Thur, October 15

  • October 15, ’15

  • 10/15/15

Don’t use ordinal indicators, which are words representing position or rank in a sequential order (e.g. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th).

  • January 23–April 1

  • January 23rd–April 1st

Time:

  • Use the 12-hour clock, followed by am or pm
  • Don’t put a space after the last number (e.g. Your package will arrive at 12:35pm)
  • If indicating a time zone is necessary, use the time zone’s abbreviation and write it after am or pm (e.g. 4:00pm NZDT)
  • To show a time range, use an en dash and include the am/pm after both times (e.g. 3:00pm–4:00pm)

Do

Thursday, October 15, 2015, 2:00pm EDT

Don’t

2015-10-15 at CDT 2:00 P.M.

Currency

When including currency with a price, the currency comes after the dollar amount.

  • $10,000 USD

  • USD$10,000

  • $10KUSD

  • $10,000USD

Numbers

Use numerals in Shopify:

  • 9

  • 100

  • 1

  • nine

  • one hundred

  • one

Use commas for numbers with four or more digits. Whenever possible, don’t truncate numbers:

  • 12,000

  • 9,344

  • 1,800,887

  • 12 k

  • 9344

  • 1.8 m

Use hyphens when writing phone numbers. Don’t use brackets, spaces, periods, or plus signs:

  • 613-555-1234

  • 1-514-555-1234

  • 33-55-416-123

  • 613.555.1234

  • 1-(514)-555-1234

  • +33 55 416 123

Use an en dash without a space on either side for number ranges:

  • 5–10 products

  • October 15–31

  • 2005–2015

  • 25–100 lbs

  • $0.00–$49.99

  • 2:00pm–3:00pm

  • 5 – 10 products

  • October 15 – 31

  • 2005 – 2015

  • 25 – 100lbs

  • $0.00 – $49.99

  • 2:00pm – 3:00pm

Use “to” instead of an en dash if a number range is preceded by “from” in a phrase. Use “and” if a range is preceded by “between.”

  • You have a delivery scheduled from 10:00am to 2:00pm on Monday, July 18.

  • Active from August 15 to August 30

  • Free shipping for products between $10.00 and $40.00

  • You have a delivery scheduled from 10:00am–2:00pm on Monday, July 18.

  • Active from August 15–August 30

  • Free shipping for products between $10.00–$40.00

For undefined upward ranges, use “and up.”

  • $50.00 and up

  • $50.00+

For downward ranges, be specific.

  • $0.00–$49.99

  • $50.00 or less

Units of measurement

For storage and memory sizes (e.g. kB, GB), the unit of measurement should be uppercase. Include a space between the number and unit of measurement.

  • 512 kB

  • 1 GB

  • 1 TB

  • 2kb

  • 512Mb

For dimensions and weights, the unit of measurement should be lowercase. Include a space between the number and unit of measurement.

  • 4 lbs

  • 72 dpi

  • 500 × 500 px

  • 4 LBS

  • 72DPI

  • 500 by 500PX

For dimensions and weights, use decimals instead of fractions:

  • 2.375 lbs

  • 11.875 × 3.375 × 13.625 cm

  • 2-3/8 lbs

  • 11-7/8 × 3-3/8 × 13-5/8 cm

When listing out dimensions in a row, put the unit of measurement at the end instead of after each number and include a space.

  • 11.875 × 3.375 × 13.625 cm

  • 1.875cm × 3.375cm × 13.625cm

In all cases, include a space between the number and the unit.

  • 3.4 lbs

  • 2 kg

  • 1 cm

  • 11.875 × 3.375 × 13.625 cm

  • 3.4lbs

  • 2kg

  • 1.875 × 3.375 × 13.625cm


Places, names, and formal nouns

Country, province, and state names

Use a nation’s proper name when referring to it as a noun.

  • Your store must be located in the United States.

  • Your store must be located in the US.

When using a country as an adjective (such as when referring to currency), you may use an abbreviated form without punctuation.

  • Pinterest requires your store to use US currency.

  • U.S. currency

Things to watch out for:

  • Don’t use colloquial forms of a nation or state name (e.g. Your store must be located in America)
  • Look up online if nations commonly use “the” before their name (e.g. in the United States, in France, in Ukraine, in the Falkland Islands)

Trademarks

Respect the usage guidelines of any third-party intellectual property. For example, in US communications, Apple Pay requires you to include the trademark symbol (™) the first time Apple Pay appears in body copy.

Review the third party’s brand usage guidelines to make sure you are using the company’s name and logo correctly.


Punctuation

Ampersands

Don’t use ampersands (&). They attract attention to the least important part of the sentence. Spell out the word “and.”

  • Zones and rates

  • Zones & rates

Apostrophes

Use apostrophes to represent omitted letters or numbers:

  • Omitted numbers (’40s)
  • Omitted letters (don’t, can’t, won’t)
  • Verb contractions (it’s, you’re, we’re)

Use apostrophes to form possessives:

  • Singular nouns: add ’s, even if they end in s (merchant’s, bus’s)
  • Plural nouns that don’t end in s: add ’s (women’s, men’s)
  • Plural nouns that end in s: add an apostrophe (boxes’, customers’)

Don’t use apostrophes to form possessive pronouns (hers, his, etc.).

  • Merchant’s store

  • Women’s clothing

  • Customers’ credit cards

  • Merchants store

  • Womens clothing

  • Customers credit cards

Colons

Avoid using colons in sentences. If you need to use one, don’t capitalize the first word after the colon unless it’s a proper noun.

Do

Your store accepts payments with GoCoin and Shopify Payments.

Don’t

Your store accepts payments with: GoCoin and Shopify Payments. Merchants store, womens clothing, customers credit cards

Don’t use colons to introduce radio buttons or checkboxes.

Do

If the customer abandons their checkout, send them an email reminder to complete their order

Never

6 hours later

24 hours later

Don’t

If the customer abandons their checkout, send them an email reminder to complete their order:

Never

6 hours later

24 hours later

Introduce bulleted lists with a colon.

Do

Correct the following payment information to continue:

  • The credit card verification value (CVV) doesn’t match the credit card
  • The billing address street doesn’t match the street for the credit card
  • The billing address zip or postal code doesn’t match the credit card address

Don’t

Correct the following payment information to continue.

  • The credit card verification value (CVV) doesn’t match the credit card
  • The billing address street doesn’t match the street for the credit card
  • The billing address zip or postal code doesn’t match the credit card address

Commas

Use the oxford comma (also known as the serial comma) in sentences. There should be a comma after every list item (unless you’re using a bulleted or numbered list).

Do

Kit is an app that handles your online advertising, email marketing, and social media.

Don’t

Kit is an app that handles your online advertising, email marketing and social media.

Don’t use commas to separate bulleted or numbered list items.

Do

  • The credit card verification value (CVV) doesn’t match the credit card
  • The billing address street doesn’t match the street for the credit card
  • The billing address zip or postal code doesn’t match the credit card address

Don’t

  • The credit card verification value (CVV) doesn’t match the credit card,
  • The billing address street doesn’t match the street for the credit card,
  • The billing address zip or postal code doesn’t match the credit card address.

Ellipses

The ellipses (…) can be used in place of a missing piece of text (most commonly to show the deletion of words from a direct quotation). Avoid using ellipses in text.

Use ellipses for:

  • Truncation in the center of a title bar

Don’t use ellipses for:

  • Placeholder copy
  • Trailing off a sentence
  • Search files

  • Start typing to search for files…

Truncation

Consider constraints of the space in the interface when deciding to use truncation. Think about what part of the string the merchant needs most. It’s usually the beginning or end, which means you might have to truncate the middle of the string.

Ellipses button component

A button with an ellipsis icon (not the same as text) is used to expand more actions. It’s typically used in cards, or for horizontal sets of actions when space is limited. Android uses a vertical version (vertically stacked dots).

En-dashes and em-dashes

Use an en dash with no spaces in between (–) for a fixed range of numbers

  • 2006–2013

  • 2006 – 2013

Use an em dash only if you can’t make your message clearer by splitting it into two sentences. Use an em dash without a space on either side (—).

Do

Choose your theme’s colors, typography, and pictures—all in one place.

Don’t

Choose your theme’s design—colors, typography, and pictures—all in one place.

Depending on the font or appearance, you may want to include a hair space on either side of the en or em dash. HTML entity code for hair space is   or  .

Tip: On Mac the keyboard shortcuts are option - for en dash and shift option - for em dash.

Exclamation marks

Avoid exclamation marks—only use them for really really exciting things. If you absolutely have to, limit yourself to one exclamation mark per page.

  • You’ve launched your first online store!

  • You’ve updated your product title!

Hyphens

Use hyphens to:

  • Form compound modifiers: two words that combine to modify or describe another
  • Start your free, no-risk, 14-day trial.

  • Start your free, no risk, 14 day trial.

  • Join prefixes and suffixes only if there are two vowels beside each other. Never use hyphens in the words ecommerce and email.
  • Re-order

  • Resend

  • Reorder

  • Reenable

  • Re-send

Periods

Periods often end up in places they shouldn’t, and are omitted at strange times. In general, don’t use periods in interface copy unless it’s a full sentence description.

When to use periods:

  • Complete sentences

  • Body text, descriptions, and subtitles

  • Help text under text boxes (form fields)

  • Timeline events

  • Footer help box text

  • Sentence fragments

  • Top-level headings and titles

  • Buttons

  • Notifications

  • Flash messages

  • Placeholder copy

  • Navigation menu items

  • Hover/tooltip text

  • Radio button and checkbox text

  • Description example: Add this product to a collection so it’s easy to find in your store.

  • Placeholder example: Search products

  • Timeline example: $50.41 USD was authorized.

  • Footer help box example: Learn more about products.

  • Navigation example: Orders

  • Button example: Add product.

  • Placeholder example: Search…

  • Heading example: I’m Kit, your virtual employee.

  • Notification example: 6 orders have payments that need to be captured.

Do

  • Use when a list item has two or more full sentences, then also add periods to the whole list
  • Use for the description or helper text below a bulleted or numbered list item

Don’t

  • Don’t use periods when a list has only single sentences or fragments
  • Don’t use periods for lists of links

Question marks

Avoid question marks wherever possible. Reword into affirmative statements wherever you can, but there are exceptions:

It’s okay to use question marks if you don’t know the result of the question:

  • “Did you forget your password?”
  • “Do you need to add a shipping rate?”

Don’t use question marks if:

  • It’s the only option available: “Reset password”
  • It’s an on/off option: “Show quantity box”
  • Forgot?

  • Reset password?

Quotation marks

Use quotation marks to:

  • Define words (“growth-hacking”)
  • Quote text

Place commas and periods inside quotation marks.

  • “I see this all the time,” said Mark Hayes.

  • “It drives me absolutely crazy”, said Mark Hayes.

Always use smart (curly) quotes, not vertical (straight) quotes.

  • option + ]

  • option + shift + ]

  • option + [

  • option + shift + [

  • " or '

Semicolons

Avoid semicolons if possible. If you really need them, use semicolons to:

  • Connect two closely related ideas, as long as they are both independent clauses (full sentences that could stand on their own).
  • Replace a comma or the word “and” between two closely related ideas.

Do

My friends made me banana pancakes on my birthday; I’ve never been happier.

Don’t

The unicorn was hungry; the grass was brown.


Spelling and formatting

American spelling

Use American spelling for all external-facing Shopify content. That means:

  • Color

  • Center

  • Canceled

  • Colour

  • Centre

  • Cancelled

Tip: it’s easy to miss Canadian spelling. Switch your laptop language settings to American English and turn spell check on. It will highlight any Canadianisms you might have missed.

Bold

When in doubt, don’t bold.

Use bold sparingly and only where strong emphasis is required. In the interface, bold should be reserved to emphasize input a merchant has provided (e.g. product title, contact information).

Do

After your first sale, PayPal will email you at merchant@email.com with instructions.

Don’t

Are you sure you want to delete cat shirt?

Don’t use bold to emphasize proper nouns, create a heading, or emphasize a checkbox title.

Do

Your store accepts payments with PayPal Express Checkout and Authorize.net

Don’t

Your store accepts payments with PayPal Express Checkout and Authorize.net


You, we, and other personal pronouns

Addressing merchants

Always refer to the merchant as “you.” Don’t put words in the merchants’ mouths with phrases that use “I” or “my.”

  • Change your email address in your Profile.

  • Change your email address in My Profile.

In some cases (such as getting merchant consent or granting permissions) you should refer to the merchant as “I.”

  • I agree to the terms and conditions

  • You agree the terms and conditions

Referring to Shopify

Always refer to Shopify as “we,” but avoid inserting Shopify into the content as much as possible (except when a human is taking action, such as reviewing a request.)

  • Pinterest Buyable Pins will be available in the coming weeks.

  • We’re making Pinterest Buyable Pins available in the coming weeks.