Give poor “enable” a break

The grumpy old UX writer
2 min readSep 5, 2022

The little word that just can’t even anymore

We want to tell the story of our products and services in a way that explains to our customers what’s in it for them. This is how we often try to do it:

Skrubbie provides powerful tools that enable dishes to be washed with ease.

“But,” I hear you object, “it does enable dishes to etc. What’s the shortfall here in communicating the benefit?”

The first problem is that the customer isn’t invited into the equation.

“That’s easy,” I hear you say, “just add the customer”:

Skrubbie provides powerful tools that enable customers to wash dishes with ease.

OK, it’s a bit better, but the construction speaks to the potential, not the kinetic.

It’s copywriting

On day one of a competent copywriting course, they tell the class, “Lead with the benefit.” This means

  1. Find the benefit.
  2. Put it at the beginning of the message.
  3. Tell the customer how to get it.

Wash dishes easily with powerful tools from Skrubbie.

You’ll notice that poor, beleaguered “enable” is gone. And that’s good: “Enabling” things doesn’t inspire: enabling is just a state change. Something that’s been enabled is sitting and waiting for someone or something to do something.

Tell the customer what they can do with the tool or product or service, not what the product or service “enables.”

So if you find that you’re tempted to write

Skrubbie enables you to keep all your dishes spotless.

try instead

Keep all your dishes spotless with Skrubbie.

Write to inspire and motivate. As soon as you can, tell people what your product or service does for them.

Stop talking about what it enables them to do.

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The grumpy old UX writer

Welcome. I’m an older guy working in tech, so please forgive my grumpiness 😒 I’ve worked as a UX writer for 12 years and will likely be doing it when I retire.