Learn how to apply Q-CTRL's voice and choose the right tone, no matter what product, feature, or app you're building
Q-CTRL adopts the Microsoft Style Guide for its completeness and relevance across mediums. The style guide is a set of rules and writing standards that ensure our audience recognizes our brand in various formats across all channels. Where the Microsoft Style Guide is unopinionated or Q-CTRL differs, these additions and exceptions are detailed below.
Q-CTRL’s tone changes depending on the audience and product we’re addressing.
Q-CTRL: Our informational tone
Key elements: Knowledgeable, informative, instructive, confident.
Our goal is to demonstrate our mastery of quantum technology, our confidence in our product suite, and our ability to understand our customers. We offer useful and practical solutions for our users right now, and our tone always highlights practicality. We enable teams to embrace cutting-edge technology by simplifying complex problems into easy-to-understand concepts. We believe in being a catalyst for change, not just providing tools. Our Q-CTRL tone disseminates knowledge without dumbing it down.
Black Opal: Our tutoring tone
Key elements: Relatable, engaging, accessible.
Our goal is to make quantum skills accessible to our customers and bring learning within reach. Black Opal’s warm and personal tone helps us connect with our audience. For example, we often use a conversational tone in our transactional emails to put customers at ease. We approach Black Opal copy with the voice of a tutor, instructing in real-time, making quantum technology accessible, never daunting or intimidating.
Boulder Opal: Our academic tone
Key elements: Technical, analytical, formal.
Our goal is to inform and discuss, encouraging analysis and research. Boulder Opal’s users are advanced in their understanding of crucial quantum computing concepts and expect content that meets their level of competency. At the same time, even our technical tone shouldn’t veer too far into academic or abstract language, and we should keep jargon to a minimum.
Fire Opal: Our technical tone
Key elements: Engaging, authoritative, confident.
Our goal is to demonstrate quantum expertise and knowledge that will build confidence in our software tools. We should disseminate concepts, information, and ideas as simply as possible within the boundaries of educational value; we should be careful not to sacrifice accessibility for technical detail. Fire Opal copy and content is more formal and technical than Black Opal but less technical than Boulder Opal.
Tone and voice are two different things. The tone is how you sound when you speak. Voice is the words you use. Our overall voice remains consistent, regardless of our tone.
- Clarity trumps everything. That’s why all copy should strip away all the distracting language and focus on:
- Engaging readers
- Informing readers
- Encouraging readers to take action
- We’re experts at translating – explaining information without diluting it, removing jargon, and communicating with our readers in a way that is accessible without being simplistic.
- We’re a people-powered company, and we understand our customers’ challenges and passion for technology. We speak to them in an equal, warm, and accessible way. When we encourage, we don’t use threatening language.
- While we are happy to be down-to-earth, we avoid relying on wordplay, sloganeering or humor.
We are concise, clear-cut, and to the point. We are bold but never arrogant. We speak conversationally and respectfully. We are professional and passionate at the same time.
Simplicity is what drives our voice. It’s straightforward, empowering, and acknowledges how vital quantum technology is to our customers. They turn to us to achieve mission-critical, long-term strategic goals, and we want to give them the information they need without any fluff.
Use active voice. Avoid passive voice.
In active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence has the action done to it.
We want to engage our users, our customers and our audience, not put up abstraction barriers.
Active voice examples:
- Companies need quantum technology.
- The developer learned quantum skills.
- The team reached a crucial milestone.
Passive voice examples:
- Quantum technology is needed by companies.
- Quantum skills were learned by the developer.
- A crucial milestone was reached by the team.
Words like “was” and “by” may indicate that you’re writing in a passive voice. Scan for these words and rework sentences where they appear.
We use all caps for our brand
Our brand name is a bold realization of our work and our vision. It should always be all caps:
We use title case for our products
Quantum computing and related concepts are features of our product and/or categories. They are not branded or proprietary to Q-CTRL so they they should use sentence case.
Someone reading technical content is usually looking to answer a specific question. Our goal is to provide answers without distraction.
Content should be as clear and concise as possible to help the reader find their answer quickly. If you have more than one answer, make sure they are well labelled and ordered, so they are easy to understand. Use images, diagrams, tables, graphs, and other visuals to illustrate your point or break up the text.
For each project, consider your reader’s background, context and objective.
When relevant, provide a brief outline of an article, email or landing page’s focus in an introductory paragraph or section, and stick to the topic at hand. Keep sentences, paragraphs, and procedural steps focused and concise.
Ask these questions:
- Is the reader a prospective user, a new user, or an experienced user?
- What is the goal of the user? To complete a task? To research a topic?
- Is the user in the middle of a task? Are they in a hurry? Could they be frustrated?
For all educational, contextual, and product documentation we have adopted the Diátaxis Framework which speaks to the intent of any document.
The Diátaxis Framework aims to solve the problem of structure in technical documentation. It adopts a systematic approach to understanding the needs of documentation users in their cycle of interaction with a product.
We don’t want to overload our audience with unnecessary information, choices, or complex ideas or phrases when we don’t have to. This is particularly critical when a user may be new and/or frustrated and when a user is experienced and time-poor.
First, second, and third-person pronouns
As a general rule, we write in the first person plural - as Q-CTRL - when we create content. Put simply, Q-CTRL is always referring to ourselves as “We”; we are presenting content, we are discussing Black Opal, we are developing new technology.
A first-person plural narrative:
- Helps our readers to establish an immediate connection with our brand because our beliefs and emotions are not expressed through a third party (i.e., someone else).
- Allows our readers to quickly establish the nature of our brand’s relationships with our products and partners as they are described more directly than through a third party.
We write in the individual first person when the content is a blog post, research document or update that should be attributed to a specific person.
We write in the second person when we are expressing the value proposition of our products, platform and research to our users.
|General webpages, product pages, copy.||First person plural.|
|Emails, webinars, product videos.||First person plural.|
|Blog posts written from the perspective of Q-CTRL.||First person plural.|
|Blog posts attributable to a specific person.||First person.|
|Any/all copy that describes a user experience.||Second person.|
Footnotes and reference citations
The following exceptions apply when creating online advertisements:
- Use title-style capitalization for all titles.
- Ensure editorial adheres to the Google Advertising Policies Editorial guidelines.
- Where the above points are in conflict, the latter takes precedent.
Below are guidelines for writing descriptions (release notes) for releases.
- Don’t be too technical; easy to understand for beginners.
- Be specific; avoid phrases like “various fixes/updates”.
- Be brief and to the point.