Tone of voice

A quick guide to giffgaff's personality


Hello.

Here is a guide. A guide to how we write things.

It covers tone of voice, some favourite words of ours, and a few other bits and bobs.

First, let’s start with the basics.

What is tone of voice?

In short, it’s a brand’s personality, a combination of what they say, and how they say it.

In practical terms it’s the difference between:

You were not charged for the most recent text message you sent

And

Woohoo. That last text message was free.

The former is a bit dry and sounds a little like it was written by 80s Robot. The latter is shorter, more informal and reads like something a human being might say.

Why is tone of voice important?

When you meet someone for the first time you generally want that person to have a good impression of you, right? Well, giffgaff as a brand is no different. Every interaction, be it anything from an email to a social post, gives people a perception of who we are and how we work, so ideally we’d like that impression to be a good one.

Get it right and people will stay with giffgaff, because, you know, they want to. Get it wrong and, well, people are free to go after all. Of course, to know what our personality is, we need to know who we are as a brand. So, that begs the question what kind of company are we?

The giffgaff personality

We’ve got some core pillars you might have noticed dotted around the place. These help define what we’re all about. If you need a little reminder, here they are.

  • We’re collaborative - We recognise each other’s strengths and play to them
  • We’re curious - We listen. We talk. We challenge. We find a better way
  • We’re positive - Our ambition is matched by our spirit and infectious purpose
  • We’re gritty - With a brim full of passion, perseverance and pride, we focus on what matters and get it done

What is the giffgaff tone of voice?

So now we know the characteristics that make up the giffgaff “personality” let’s look at how these affect our tone of voice.

We can probably sum this up in three handy bullet points. The giffgaff tone of voice (ggToV acronym fans) is:

  • Informal
  • Inclusive
  • Anglocentric (i.e. we use British English, not American)

In practice, this means lots of contractions (“it’s”, instead of “it is”, for instance), alliteration and the occasional well-known colloquialism (cuppa).

Here’s a more in-depth look at each.

1. We’re informal

This means we use short sentences and simple language. Anything that sounds especially corporate, or like it might have been written by a cyborg from a 1940s B movie, steer clear of. Shorter sentences and smaller words are easier to understand. Similarly, studies have indicated lowercase letters are easier to follow than uppercase ones, (it’s to do with the shape of the letters), luckily for giffgaff.

Here are a few examples of words you might use to make your writing a little more informal.

Instead of

  • commence use start
  • whilst use while
  • initialise use begin
  • however use but
  • utilise use use
  • obtain use get

This list is far from exhaustive but you get the general idea. Another handy way to keep your sentences short and simple is use contractions (it’s, that’s, we’re) as mentioned above.

2. We’re inclusive

It would be a bit self-defeating if brands weren’t at least somewhat welcoming. At giffgaff we’re a little different though in that our community is at the heart of everything we do. This means that we have to be super inclusive.

So when it comes to writing we:

  • Always refer always to “customers” as the “members” they are
  • Use non-gendered terms like “folks” instead of “guys”
  • Are irreverent without being mean-spirited

3. We’re Anglo-centric

We’re a company based in the UK, with a noticeable Anglo-Saxon voice. This not only informs how we spell things, but the vocabulary we draw upon too. So, remember to:

  • Use British spellings (colour, realise, centre, etc)
  • Use common British colloquialisms (cuppa, chuffed, gaffer), albeit sparingly
  • Avoid obvious Americanisms (awesome, dude, etc)

Some common mistakes

Finally, here are a few common mistakes we see cropping up now and again.

  • Ampersands (&) - never use
  • Non-English words - Adios, bonjour, etc, not for us
  • Abbreviations - such as OMG, BFFs are, again, not for us
  • Time format - write as 8am - 10pm, midnight/noon and avoid the 24-hour clock
  • Exclamation marks (!) - never use
  • Parentheses - use brackets sparingly
  • All caps - avoid ALL CAPS
  • Emoticons/emoji - never use
  • Top-up - “Top up” (without the hyphen) describes an action. “Top-up” with the hyphen is a product. So, you “top up your top-up”. As this is a little confusing, we’re trying to phase out the use of “top-up” as a product. “Top up your credit” is much clearer.
  • Login - “Login” is a noun or an adjective. e.g. “Login page”, “Login button” and generally describes a thing. “Log in” is a verb (or verbal phrase), and describes an action. So you “log in with your login”.

So, that gives you an overview of what we should and shouldn’t be doing. Dip into the A - Z content style bible if you have more specific questions. Or just ask one of the helpful members of the content team if you fancy a more text-based form of communication.