Voice and tone

Learn how to apply Shopify’s voice and choose the right tone, no matter what product, feature, or app you’re building.


What are voice and tone?

Shopify’s voice is a reflection of who we are. We should always sound like Shopify.

At the same time, some aspects of our personality might be more or less apparent, depending on the audience and their context. That’s tone.


Shopify’s voice

We want our voice to sound like a business mentor with zero ego.

Why “business mentor”?

Your mentor is someone you trust to help you make decisions about your business. They share their expertise and experience. They answer questions. They give guidance and insight at the right moments.

Why “zero ego”?

We should be confident, but humble. People should trust that we’re taking actions in their best interest, without judgment or motive. It's OK if they know more than us or do things their own way. And we’re thrilled when they become really successful.


Voice guidelines

As Shopify’s voice, we should always:

Be real, but not too tough or overly familiar

  • Use business casual language—be plain-spoken, not pretentious or overly playful
  • Be upfront and honest with merchants, even if we make a mistake
  • Communicate with clarity and empathy—be direct, not insensitive

Be proactive, but not needy or pushy

  • Offer merchants sincere encouragement and practical advice
  • Clearly explain how merchants are impacted when something goes wrong, but don’t overexplain with redundant content

Be dynamic, but not scattered or impulsive

  • Communicate in a way that respects merchant emotion and context
  • Avoid words that generalize success like “every,” “all,” and “most”
  • Use language that supports action, movement, and progress

Guide, but don’t handhold or prescribe

  • Use expertise to help merchants succeed; don’t talk down to them
  • Be specific when explaining benefits without making things sound better than they are
  • Teach people the “why” and “how” behind actions—don’t just tell them to do something

Adapting tone by situation

Our tone adapts to the context. We’ll use certain voice attributes more or less based on the situation.

Often people frame tone guidance around adapting to the emotional state of the audience. The reality is we never know a person’s emotional state. Even when things seem the most positive, we can’t be sure.

While it’s helpful to consider how your audience is likely to feel, don’t assume or tell them how to feel. Instead, focus on the specifics of the situation and less on the emotions. Here are some of the most common situations to consider.

Everyday tasks and activities

When everything is working as it should, our goal is to give people what they need to get work done, without getting in the way or drawing attention to ourselves. We want the audience to know what something is or that something has happened as expected.

Do

Look for the simplest way to communicate information—words aren’t always necessary.

Image showing an icon of an eye representing a “view” action

Don’t

Use overly complicated or intimidating language.

Image showing a toggle switch on a card labeled “Use Biometrics for Authentication”

Do

Be consistent for identical actions or destinations when possible.

  • Delete product
  • Delete collection

Don’t

Add extra text just to fill space.

Image showing a text field for notes labeled “Add a note” followed by three ellipses

Learning and education

Sometimes it helps to give more explanation or education. In these situations, we want to make sure people feel confident in their actions and in our capabilities.

Some people will want to be guided step-by-step through the process, while others may just want to try it out and learn on their own. Look for ways to give them both options.

Remember, they may have sought this out specifically or we may have recommended it to them, so don’t assume that they want or need to use it.

Do

Help people understand why they should do something, not just how.

A home card suggesting to add a shipping policy to your store to build trust with customers

Don’t

Oversell or overpromise.

Create a new campaign and you could double your sales this holiday season.

Do

Break down complicated tasks into steps that help people focus on one thing at a time.

A home card with separate tabs for adding a product, customizing a theme, and adding a domain

Don’t

Be overly prescriptive about how someone should use a feature.

You need to add at least 10 products before opening your store.

Simple errors

While we do our best to be proactive and protect against unexpected events, they still happen. These are often simple mistakes or roadblocks to action that can easily be fixed. Although they aren’t necessarily errors or problems, they can feel that way at first.

In this case, our job is to help people understand what happened so that they can get back to work as quickly as possible

Read the error message guidelines for more detailed guidance.

Do

Clearly explain the situation and how it can be resolved.

Product weight needs to be positive. Change the product weight to be greater than or equal to 0 and try again.

Don’t

Use overly dramatic or scary words for simple errors.

Bad request, forbidden, fatal, expectation failed, unresolved, invalid

Do

Look for ways to help people resolve problems automatically.

Email input error with helpful hint

Don’t

Use error numbers or code unless they’re easily recognizable by people and help them solve the problem.

Error modal with confusing error code

Acknowledging effort, progress, or completion

There are situations where we want to acknowledge that someone completed a complex activity or difficult task.

While we don’t need to celebrate the accomplishment, we should recognize that they put in the time and effort. Depending on the level of effort, these may be simple confirmations or more active recognition that they completed something difficult.

Do

If this is a task people do regularly, make it clear that the step is complete in a simple and non-intrusive way, like a toast. Consider ways to confirm completion without words or messaging.

Product saved

Don’t

Assume people are excited or celebrating. They may be annoyed if it was a particularly long process or if the immediate benefits aren’t clear.

Congrats! You set up your single login for Shopify.

Do

If the task was something we initiated or required, thank them for their time.

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback.

Don’t

Refer to simple actions or completed steps as “successes.”

You successfully added a product.

Motivate or encourage action

These are situations when we want to keep people moving along a desired path. In most cases, we do that with direct information and clear steps to encourage action.

We don’t want to be too overzealous or action-driven here—it’s more about helping people understand the next step and giving them the context they need to take it.

Do

Help people understand what the next steps are and why they should take them.

Your email address is connected to 8 accounts. Set up a single login to switch between stores faster and log in less often.

Don’t

Assume the next step or outcome is guaranteed.

You’re just a few steps away from receiving your first order.

Do

Provide guidance to help people understand if the decision is right for them.

Based on your type of business, this is the POS hardware we recommend:.

Serious problems or errors

There are times when we need to share bad news. This might be an outage or an error, or it may be a product that we’re no longer supporting. These are hopefully rare situations, but they will happen.

In this case, there’s a serious risk of damaging trust and hurting our relationship with the audience, so we should be very careful about how we communicate.

Read the error message guidelines for more detailed guidance.

Do

Explain the impact on their business clearly, without using confusing or scary language.

Some of today’s sales data hasn’t been updated yet. This will be fixed shortly. Your data is safe, and your sales are not affected.

Don’t

Ask merchants to trust us without providing data or context.

Today’s sales data might not be accurate, but don’t worry—it’s just temporary.

Do

Apologize and empathize when we’re at fault, but within reason.

Banner describing and apologizing for a service outage

Do

Provide clear steps to resolve issues. If there’s no solution, be direct about what that means for the merchant and what we’re doing about it.

Your Shopify Payments account is on hold. Please attach your State Tax Exemption Certificate for review.

Announcing new features and updates

It’s exciting to launch a new feature or update, but always consider the audience’s perspective first. While we may be excited about the benefits and capabilities, change can be intimidating or annoying for users.

When you’re announcing something new, focus on educating and explaining what it is, what it’s used for, and what the user can expect.

Do

Pitch our product by explaining the specific merchant benefits.

Introducing the new Buy Button
Make it your own with custom fonts, colors, and styles. It also loads 50% faster so your visitors won’t miss it.

Don’t

Just talk about ourselves and assume the experience for merchants will be easy.

Get Shopify’s new Buy Button
It’s never been easier to customize the fonts, colors, and styles of Buy Buttons. It’s also twice as fast.

Do

If possible, let users dismiss announcements or postpone changes until they’re ready.

A secondary button option to remind the user to “sign up later” for a feature

Celebrations and congratulations

There are occasionally times when we want to celebrate an event or milestone, or to congratulate someone for an important accomplishment. In reality, this should be one of the least common situations we encounter.

Let audiences know that we understand that it’s an important moment and we’re excited for them, but be careful not to take credit for it. Even if we played a role in their success, this isn’t about us.

Remember, this is about celebrating their accomplishments, not ours. Launching something new? You probably don’t need to celebrate with them. Read our guidance around announcing new features and updates.

Do

Only celebrate truly important or monumental situations when the audience likely feels proud, excited, or satisfied.

Your store is 1 year old today! Here’s to many more.

Don’t

Celebrate completing tasks or processes that people don’t actually want to celebrate. Did they finish something difficult or do something for us? You may want to acknowledge their effort instead.

You set up your payment providers, congrats!

Do

Express genuine happiness for merchants. Recognize their accomplishment and congratulate them on a job well done.

You launched your store! Nice work.

Don’t

Take credit for merchants’ successes or presume to know what they need.

We did it! Congrats on your first sale.