What is “professional” text?

I saw this very interesting article on Medium today about the professional voice in formal text. I always thought we need to be more formal to sound professional. But the times, they are a-changing.

Inspiration for this post: The DBS Bank Design Team, Singapore.

The most formal of all: The Queen of England. Also a financial face.
The most formal of all: The Queen of England. Also a financial face.
picture credit: @vanveenjf on unsplash.

Let me take you straight to the point: Banks struggle with the boring side of everyones life. It’s not the money itself, it’s the way the banking service is presented. The focus always lies on security, professionalism and to follow the laws, terms and conditions.

Follow the laws. Sounds fun.

You surely agree that a professional language is compulsory in finance. There are people like Elon Musk who seems to have nine financial lives, but besides him there is no room for fun in finance, and especially banking. There’s money at stake, and you don’t joke around with peoples economy.

Or do you?

Casual Banking = Professional Banking

As the study of youandb.co.uk shows, a professional text is not boring any more.

In 2016, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank, understood that this need to change. They decided to call up the creative geniuses at Karmarama to spice up banking and set up a new bank together. The result is B – a very casual bank. Target group: young professionals, who like to grab a coffee while doing “the boring stuff”. Yes, B has a barista just inside the entrance on Market Street in Manchester. Is it a bank or a café?

It’s both.

Hear what the Marketing Director Helen at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank had to say when interviewed in Marketing Communications news, june 2016:

We wanted our new banking service to be built around customers, to help them enjoy their money and feel more in control of their lives.

Helen Page, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank creative team

This is already 3 years ago. B is plowing on, getting more and more customers every day. Why?

Just compare Clydesdale and Yorkshirebank to youandb.co.uk and see what I mean. For exapmle, when banking with the traditionalists, you immediatly get pointed to the subdomain secure.xyz.co.uk. This looks like they trying to convince us that everything is safe, they know what they’re doing, don’t worry.

A generation born into the connected age couldn’t care less. It’s a bank, of course it’s safe? Therefore, B quotes The Beatles and gets rid of the Legal stuff with a shrug, nod and smile. As a result, their web and app is packed with stunning UX without getting overly casual.

So can we just joke around now? Is that what we are doing?


Summary of a professional voice

Back to Singapore and DBS and their UX writer Liva has to say:

‘Professional’ content isn’t overly formal and fussy. It is relevant, personalised, useful and easy to understand.

Liva, Creative team at DBS Bank in Singapore

Got it. We can’t just joke for the sake of it. We need to find the voice without leaving the professionalism behind. The jokes are the spice.

The article “Why we don’t need to use formal language to sound professional” on Medium is definitely worth a read. And apart from this piece, Liva produces some really good texts about UX, and especially in writing UX.


Please leave a message here if I can help you find your professional voice.

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