Personal Notes from An Event Apart, Boston, 2015
Kate Kiefer Lee, Writer & Editor, MailChimp @katekiefer

Healthcare, money, private information, fundraising, religion, or politics are all sensitive or touchy topics. There two types of touchy messages.

Urgent messages which can be time-sensitive

  1. Error messages
  2. Security alerts
  3. Warnings
  4. Rejection notices
  5. Apologies

Less urgent messages

  1. Help docs
  2. Customer service emails
  3. Contact pages
  4. Forms
  5. Legal polices
  6. Unsubscribe pages

Map your touchy subjects. If you don’t know where to start list all content then pull out urgent, sensitive and time-sensitive content. Then map by the following three areas. List the Content type, what  reader might be feeling and the appropriate tone..

Principles for writing:

  1. Clarity first
  2. Get to the point
  3. Stay calm – Avoid alarming language. Avoid all caps and exclamation.
  4. Be serious – Save the jokes for later when writing for sensitive situations.
  5. Accept responsibility
  6. Be nice. Avoid jargon.

Read the work out loud to check yourself. This puts you in a conversational frame of mind. It’s great for self editing.

Error messages and alerts:

  • The user may often be frustrated here. Be calm. When all else fails say exactly what you mean and say it nicely.

Help documents:

  • Have a clear headline.
  • Keep things consistent with the product. Keep things on an editorial calendar that is connected with deb calendar.
  • Use formats consistent from document to document. If you use list items in one place use them everywhere for similar content.

Unsubscribe pages:

  • Readers are annoyed frustrated or distracted
  • Warm understanding honest.
  • Validate emotions and offer opportunity to stay subscribed.

Social Media

  • Pay attention to the news to not say anything. Tragedy isn’t about you. Nobody cares about your thoughts and feelings. They want news.


  • Be honest, warm and direct.  Own the problem and be specific. Let people know what you’re doing to fix the problem.

Possible templates types:

  1. Email tweet blog post Facebook post
  2. Apologize up front if necessary
  3. Say what happens next
  4. Who the message will be from
  5. Who needs to sign off
  6. Laws and other requirements

Emergency contact list.

Review unsubscribe flow and wording.


  • Check out Editorially’s terms of service. 

Leave a Reply