If you work at MailChimp, you’re an expert at something. Why not write about that something? MailChimp is more than just an email newsletter service—we publish lots of great content, and our employees have a standing invitation to publish their own work on our blog or elsewhere. Whether you’re writing a blog post, a research document, or a something else, this guide will cover some grammar basics, explain the types of articles we publish, and give you a sense of MailChimp’s personality. Consider this a set of standards to help you write solid and engaging content that suits our brand—they’re not hard and fast rules. We’d rather be clear, informative, and entertaining writers than grammar nerds any day, so don’t get caught up in the technicalities. And have fun!
Voice and Tone
MailChimp’s voice is human. It’s familiar, it’s friendly, and it’s straightforward. Sure, we crack jokes and tell stories, but our priority is to explain MailChimp and help our users get their work done and get on with their lives. We use language that educates and empowers people without patronizing or confusing them.
We wouldn’t say:
Facebook is a great social-media website where you can create a profile and connect with friends. Facebook and MailChimp can share information, so you can add a MailChimp signup form to your own Facebook page.
Instead, we’d say:
Add a newsletter signup form to your Facebook profile. Here’s how it works.
MailChimp has a sense of humor, so feel free to be funny when it comes naturally to you. Don’t force jokes, though, because forced humor never ends well. We know when to be funny and when to keep a straight face. Our tone is usually informal, but it’s more important to be clear than entertaining.
MailChimp’s unofficial tagline is “Love what you do,” and that spirit should come through in every piece of content we produce.
- Fun but not childish
- Clever but not silly
- Confident but not cocky
- Smart but not stodgy
- Cool but not alienating
- Informal but not sloppy
- Helpful but not overbearing
- Expert but not bossy
- Weird but not inappropriate
Watch your tone
There’s a difference between voice and tone. Look at it this way: You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. You might speak in one tone to your closest friends and family, and a different tone with your boss. Your tone also changes depending on the emotional state of the person you’re addressing. You wouldn’t use the same tone of voice with someone who’s scared or upset as you would with someone who’s laughing. Same goes for MailChimp’s voice. Our voice doesn’t change much from day to day, but our tone changes all the time.
When you’re writing, consider the reader’s state of mind. Is she relieved to be finished with a campaign? Mad that she can’t log in? Confused about which merge tag to use? Adjust your tone accordingly.
MailChimp’s voice and tone guide
If you’re new to MailChimp, please spend some time with http://voiceandtone.com.
We’re experts, but we’re not bossy.
We wouldn’t say:
You must log in before you are allowed to view your stats.
Instead, we’d say:
Looking for your stats? Log in to MailChimp.
We keep it positive.
We wouldn’t say:
You can’t send a campaign if you don’t have a list of subscribers.
Instead, we’d say: Upload a list of subscribers to get started on your first campaign.
Freddie Von Chimpenheimer IV is the lovable face of MailChimp. He’s been around in various forms since the beginning, and he captures our brand’s personality. He’s got a smile on his face (sometimes it seems more like a smirk), but he means business. Freddie’s voice rarely appears within the app. MailChimp’s writers should NOT speak in the voice of Freddie or any other chimp.
See our brand assets for more on Freddie.
If you’re at all familiar with MailChimp, you’ve heard someone say “eep eep!” as an expression of delight or solidarity. “Eep eep” isn’t chimp talk, and it isn’t Freddie’s voice. It’s our rally cry. We say it when we’re speaking to customers, and we encourage our customers to say it when they’re talking about MailChimp.
Writing for MailChimp
Now that we’ve gone over MailChimp’s voice, you know to ask yourself the following questions before writing anything:
- Why am I writing this?
- Who’s reading, and what’s their emotional state?
When you finish writing an article, read it out loud to yourself. That might sound like a silly exercise, but it’s important we maintain an approachable tone, and all those years in liberal-arts school might be working against you. Plus, everything you write will make perfect sense to you, but when you read something out loud, you get a better sense of how a user’s going to understand it.
MailChimp is a web company, and our developers are constantly creating new technology. The terminology alone can make your head spin. One day, someone might ask you to write about something you don’t really understand. If you don’t have a totally clear understanding of what you’re writing about, ask a designer or developer or data scientist to explain it before you start writing.
We produce all kinds of content for potential and existing customers. Here’s a breakdown of the types of content we publish, the purpose each department serves, and their typical formats.
MailChimp blog posts are typically 150-800 words and written in the author’s own, first-person voice. They’re informative, entertaining, and written for customers. Topics are flexible, but every post should teach our readers something new. Blog posts might announce a new feature or change to the application, provide email-marketing tips, share interesting research or data, showcase a customer or email, the list goes on. Working on a blog post? See the Writing for our Blog section for tips.
Why we do it: To educate and entertain our loyal users, and to show them that we love what we do.
Guides are written in third-person and have a friendly but straightforward tone, as readers want answers pronto. They vary in length from five pages to 50. They either teach readers how to use MailChimp on a high level (Getting Started With MailChimp), or they provide a tour of MailChimp and explain relevant features to a particular type of user (MailChimp for Nonprofits). They often feature screenshots and step-by-step instructions. Guides are available in web, PDF, ePub, and mobile formats.
Why we do it: To educate users, make them more self-sufficient, and answer questions they don’t know they have.
MailChimp reports are data or research-informed documents that provide information about a specific topic related to email (Email on Mobile Devices). They don’t directly market MailChimp or teach people how to use our features.
Why we do it: To share our knowledge with people who are interested in our industry.
MailChimp at Work
We’ve got a lot of awesome users, and the MailChimp at Work series is a way for us to brag on them. We create videos to share their work and demonstrate the way they use MailChimp. They’re educational and entertaining, and they focus on people and companies who use MailChimp in interesting ways. We share these videos in our quarterly newsletter and/or on the blog.
Why we do it: To show potential and existing customers how much you can do with MailChimp, and to share our users’ work.
Case studies are blog posts that explain how customers use a particular MailChimp feature. The format is flexible—sometimes it’s a list, sometimes it’s a step-by-step explanation of how a user implemented an integration, and sometimes it’s a video interview. Case studies are straightforward and informative. Written case studies are usually 150-600 words, and every one includes at least one image or screenshot. We share our favorites in MailChimp’s quarterly newsletter.
Why we do it: To show how customers can use specific features.
Knowledge base articles
MailChimp’s Knowledge Base (KB) is a self-service support center with hundreds of help articles. It’s updated every day. When our customers read help articles, they’re trying to solve problems quickly, so the tone should be direct and clear. Most KB articles are 300-800 words.
Why we do it: To answer specific questions, educate users, and get them back to work as quickly as possible.
Our public site shows people why they should use MailChimp. Users can log in to the app from the public site. Our support links, guides, research, legal documents, and blog also live on the website. The tone is approachable and occasionally playful, and the content is informative. It’s written with potential customers in mind.
Why we do it: To show people why they should use MailChimp and provide useful resources.
Landing pages are created with specific types of customers in mind. They’re not linked from the public site, and they typically explain why a certain type of customer should use MailChimp. For example, a landing page called “MailChimp For Musicians” explains why musicians love MailChimp, links to our musicians guide, and highlights specific features and integrations that apply to musicians. Landing pages are approachable and informative, like the public site. We commission original portraits of customers for this kind of marketing content.
Why we do it: To show certain types of customers why MailChimp is a good fit for them.
The application is MailChimp’s heart. Its language helps people along as they create, send, and track email campaigns. People using the app already know and love MailChimp, so we can have a little fun with the language, but our priority is helping them get their work done quickly.
Why we do it: Duh.
Microcopy is that small but oh-so-important instructional copy that you usually see in forms and feedback messages. It might remind a user that her password has to contain a number or explain that email communication will only be used regarding a specific order. We also call it “help text,” and you see it both in the app and on the public site. It’s short and to-the-point.
Why we do it: To help users complete tasks.
MailChimp’s email newsletters are friendly company updates. Different departments send their own newsletters, and MailChimp sends one company newsletter. The MailChimp newsletter is quarterly, and the articles and links surround a specific theme, like teamwork or getting specific. It’s full of photos, stories, experiments, links, and announcements for customers who want to know more about MailChimp. The tone is casual and entertaining.
Why we do it: To give customers MailChimp news and provide an occasional behind-the-scenes look at how the company works. We are an email service, after all.
MailChimp has a Twitter feed (@MailChimp) and a Facebook page, where we post links, make announcements and connect with users. We also have a MailChimp status Twitter feed (@MailChimpStatus), where we update users when we’re having server issues. Twitter and Facebook posts are conversational and informative.
Why we do it: To provide MailChimp updates and make our customers aware of issues with the app.
That list doesn’t cover every type of content MailChimp publishes. We send press releases. We post photos to Flickr. We send security alerts and support emails. We create event invitations. We share designs on Pinterest and Tumblr. We publish coloring books. We write things in the sky with airplanes. Okay, we don’t write things in the sky…yet. But our content library is constantly evolving, and this guide exists to help you make sense of it all.
Writing for the Web
Our customers (and potential customers) have a lot going on. They’ve probably got more than a few browser windows open at any given time, and most importantly, they have a job to do—that’s why they’re on our site in the first place. We respect their busy lives and don’t waste their time with meaningless or too-long content. Online content should be scannable and easy to digest. We love short paragraphs and lists. Write clear and compelling content, and don’t use long or confusing words unless it’s absolutely necessary.
MailChimp publishes content on the web, where HTML is the lingua franca. Although you don’t have to be an HTML guru, you should probably know a few tags and elements so you can communicate clearly. Here’s a quick list of elements to memorize:
- Headings: <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, <h5>
- Paragraph: <p>
- Links: <a href="http://www.example.com">Examplename</a>
- Lists: <ul>, <ol>, <li>
- Images: <img src="myimage.jpg" alt="My Image" />
- Strong emphasis and emphasis: <strong>, <em>
If you want to expand your knowledge of HTML, check out the short articles in Opera’s Web Standards Curriculum.
We defer to the Yahoo! Style Guide for general web and grammar guidelines. The list below includes some exceptions to that rule, and topics worth mentioning twice.
Buttons always contain actions, like Sign Up Free, Learn More, and Subscribe. Write buttons for the public site in title case. The language is short and straightforward. Bold button names when referring to clicking buttons within the app.
Our standard website buttons include:
- Log In
- Sign Up Free
- Email Us
See the Copy Patterns section for more about buttons.
Capitalize the first word of email field names (To name, From name, Reply-to name, Subject line, Cc, Bcc).
Use all lowercase for email addresses.
Heading and subheadings
Headings and subheadings break articles into smaller, more specific sections. They give readers avenues into your content and make it more scannable. Be generous and descriptive with headings.
Capitalize important words (everything but articles, conjunctions, and prepositions) in headings, and capitalize the first word only in subheadings.
Images include illustrations, screenshots, logos, and photography. Caption them when necessary, according to our design guidelines.
We use original illustrations and photography as much as possible. Only use photos with permission (including logos), and credit them according to our design guidelines.
Provide a link when referring to a website. Don’t capitalize links or words within links.
Don’t say things like “Click here!” or “Click for more information.” Write the sentence as you normally would, and link relevant keywords.
Links should look different than regular copy, strong, or emphasis text. They should have a hover state that communicates they’re interactive, and should have a distinct active and visited state. When setting the hover state of links, be sure to include focus state as well, to help our customers using assistive technologies or touch devices.
Use lists to present groups of info. Only number lists when order is important (describing steps of a process).
If one of the list items is a complete sentence, use punctuation on all of the items. Otherwise, don’t use punctuation in lists.
- Log in to MailChimp
- Click Create Campaign.
Don’t use numbers when the list’s order doesn’t matter.
Here are some of the integrations we offer:
Erase this term from your brain. Just write clear and descriptive copy, and use keywords instead of “click here” in link labels.
Capitalize Twitter but not tweet.
Capitalize Facebook but not like.
Titles organize pages and guide readers. A title appears at the beginning of a page or section and briefly describes the content that follows.
Bold titles, and capitalize important words (everything but articles, conjunctions, and prepositions).
Don’t use punctuation in a title unless it’s a question.
Grammar and More
Ah, grammar. The fun part. As a reminder, we generally follow the Yahoo! Style Guide for web and grammar standards. This list includes some exceptions and extra important topics.
Abbreviations and acronyms
If there’s a chance a reader won’t recognize an abbreviation or acronym, then spell it out the first time. If the abbreviation is more common than the long form, then just use the short form (DVD, FTP).
Don’t use them.
Use common sense. When in doubt, don’t capitalize. Do not capitalize these words: website, internet, online, email
Use the serial or Oxford comma.
We interviewed some of our customers, Oprah, and Justin Timberlake.
Otherwise, follow common sense with commas. Read the sentence out loud. If you need to take a breath, use a comma.
Company names and products
Honor companies’ conventions, according to their official websites (iPad, YouTube, Yahoo!).
Refer to a company or product as “it.”
Refer to MailChimp as “we,” and always capitalize the first “M” and the “C.”
Spell out the day and abbreviate the month.
Sunday, Jan. 24
Use ellipses (…) to show that you’re omitting words or trailing off before the end of a thought. Don’t use an ellipsis for emphasis or drama.
Don’t use ellipses in titles or headers, and don’t use an ellipsis when you really should be using a colon (a list is to follow).
Use an em dash (—) without spaces for a true break or to set off a parenthetical statement.
Don’t use two hyphens in place of an em dash.
Go easy on the exclamation points! Only use exclamation points when you’re basically giving someone a high five. Never use them in failure messages or alerts.
Don’t use any combination of the following or it looks CRAZY: italic, bold, caps, underline.
Use a hyphen without spaces to link words to form a single phrase, or to indicate a span or range.
Italicize to emphasize a word, cite an example, or indicate the title of a long work (books, movies, albums).
Spell out one through nine and first through ninth, and spell out a number if it’s the first word of a sentence. Use numerals in blog posts.
Don’t say “1/2.” Instead spell out “half” or use “.5.”
Spell out percent.
Use a hyphen for a span of numbers.
It takes 20-30 days.
Don’t use “they” or “one” as singular pronouns. Use “she” or “he,” or avoid it altogether.
Use quotes to refer to words and letters, titles of short works (articles), and—you guessed it—direct quotations.
Periods and commas go within quotation marks. Question marks within quotes follow logic—if the question mark is part of the quotation, it goes within. If you’re asking a question that ends with a quote, it goes outside the quote.
Use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes.
Go easy on semicolons. When appropriate, use an em dash (—) instead, or simply start a new sentence.
States and cities
Spell out city names, and use postal codes for states.
Use periods without spaces between numbers and country codes.
Use numerals and am or pm without a space. Don’t use minutes for on-the-hour time.
Use a hyphen between times to indicate a time period.
Continental United States time zones:
- Eastern time (ES)
- Central time (CS)
- Mountain time (MS)
- Pacific time (PS)
Abbreviate time zones within the continental United States, and spell out the rest.
List ET first, unless you’re referring to an event that takes place in another time zone.
Word and Phrase Bank
Account Panel (title case)
add on (verb)
add-on (noun, adjective)
back end (noun)
beta (lowercase unless it’s part of a proper noun)
front end (noun)
login (noun, adjective)
log in (verb)
opt in (verb)
opt-in (noun, adjective)
Pay As You Go (unless noted differently in app)
pop-up (noun, adjective)
pop up (verb)
signup (noun, adjective)
sign up (verb)
sign up free (not for free)
URL (always uppercase)
Don’t use these words and phrases:
awesome (because it’s not international)
fluffy corporate terms like “solutions,” “incentivize,” “leverage” and “thought leader”
anything related to politics
anything related to religion
Writing for Our Blog
MailChimp’s blog features posts written by people from around the office, not just professional writers. We’d always prefer to have an expert write about a topic (the developer who made the app or integration, the data scientist who analyzed the numbers) than a staff or freelance writer who isn’t as close to it.
Our publishing process leaves plenty of room for learning as you go. Working on a blog post? Here are some tips to help you write the post and navigate WordPress Admin.
Blog writing tips
Be casual, but smart.
This isn’t a term paper, so there’s no need to be stuffy. But be smart. Clearly, you know what you’re talking about—that’s why you’re writing the blog post. Lay down some knowledge, but casually engage your readers in conversation.
Use title case in headlines.
Which is to say: capitalize important words. Articles (a, and, the) and prepositions (for, to, as, by, of, etc.) should be lowercase in headlines.
MailChimp is a fun company, and our blog should reflect that. Feel free to throw in a joke here and there.
Get to the point.
Get to the important stuff right away, and don’t bury the kicker. Blog posts should be scannable, shareable, and easy to digest. Break up your paragraphs into short chunks (three or four sentences) so distracted readers don’t lose focus.
Include images in your blog posts. If you’re explaining how to use MailChimp, include screenshots to illustrate your point.
Why we do it
Our blog posts explain the "why" behind the work we do at MailChimp. Tell the stories behind features and tools, so customers understand why they're useful. If you're writing about data, put the numbers in context. If you're writing about our customers, give the reader plenty of information about the company's stage, workflow, results, and values.
If someone asks you to write a specific blog post, you can get started on your research right away. When you finish the post, share it with your manager for feedback. After your manager approves it, save it as a draft in Wordpress Admin (don’t publish it yet), and pass it to an editor for revision and publishing. If you have an idea for a blog post, share it with your manager or an editor.
If you haven’t blogged for MailChimp before, then your first order of business is setting up a Wordpress Admin account. Contact an editor to coordinate.
Create a draft
Add a new post, and save it often as a draft.
Seems obvious, but your title should very clearly tell the reader what the post is about. Use title case.
Save images and add them directly from your computer using the “add media” button. There are three size options available: full (the largest option), column (which aligns with the text width), and half width (the smallest option). Depending on how large your original image is, some of the larger options might not be available. Remove image links, or link the image to the relevant URL. Only use captions when necessary.
Add a “Read more” link after the first few paragraphs, using the text format (not visual format). The tag looks like this:
Select the categories that apply to your post. Don’t create new categories.
Remember to add keywords that apply to your article. Look through existing posts for common tags.
Include links to further reading. Feel free to link away from MailChimp if it helps you explain something. Link words within the body of your post, instead of saying something like "Read more" or "Additional links."
Writing and Contributing
MailChimp’s website and app are constantly evolving, and our content is constantly becoming outdated. Each department owns different types of content. If you see a need for new content or catch an error on the site or app, contact the appropriate manager:
- Website, general style concerns: Creative
- App: UX
- KB: Support
- Blog: Your manager
- Social: Head of community
If you have copyright or privacy concerns about something you’re writing, ask the legal department for approval.
MailChimp’s creative department manages the content inventory and editorial calendar. Let them know if you have any questions, requests, or expressions of praise and admiration.
We often blog about content we’ve already posted, or refer to a feature on several different pages. Although it’s fine to reference the same thing in several places, avoid using the same exact content more than once, unless it’s repackaged for a specific group.
We update website content and resources with every monthly release. These updates focus on new features and apps. Twice a year (in January and July), we do a major content update. We update our content inventory, and edit all website content, resources, and app copy with our style and voice guidelines in mind.
You don’t have to be a trained writer to write for MailChimp. If you’re interested in writing an article or post, we’ll get you started and provide as much help as you’d like throughout the writing, editing, and publishing process. Let us know if you’d like to request an article or post about a project you’re working on, but you don’t want to write it yourself. We’ll get it on the calendar, and a writer will interview you for the technical information.
Congratulations. You’ve reached the end. Happy writing!