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Well-designed content empowers people to use our offerings with ease. These guidelines have been developed from real-life examples and are for everyone who is writing or reviewing copy in IBM product interfaces.

Content foundations

Familiarity with key IBM guidance is essential to creating experiences that are consistent, that provide an interoperability of experience with other offerings, and that represent IBM as a company.

The Carbon content guidelines are built upon and informed by the following foundational IBM assets.

Some of this content is accessible to IBMers only.

ResourcesWhat you’ll find
IBM StyleIBM Style is the corporate reference for all IBM writers and editors and applies to all content published by IBM. Its purpose is to ensure that content for external audiences is grammatically correct, clear, consistent, appropriate for global audiences, and easy to translate.
IBM Design LanguageThe IBM Design Language provides the guidance and assets used to express the IBM brand. You’ll fully understand what drives IBM’s design philosophy and principles, and be in a position to make informed choices for your product work.
IBM Brand CenterIBM Brand Center is the home base for the IBM Brand story, visual brand elements, guidelines, and assets.
IBM Brand SystemsThe IBM brand systems have been developed for various IBM businesses, audiences, categories, and offerings. Read them to understand the rationale behind every visual and verbal detail.

Voice and tone


Voice in writing expresses the core of a company’s personality. Whether spoken or written, one of the most important characteristics of IBM is our unique brand voice. Our verbal identity must remain as recognizable to everyone as our visual identity.

Understanding IBM’s personality and voice will help you reach for the best words as you develop content.

IBM Brand Center offers the following guidelines on voice.

When IBM content is at its best:

  • It has a clear point of view.
  • It’s simple and logical.
  • It builds on solid research, data, and analysis.
  • It’s intellectually ambitious, expressing a bigger idea.
  • It’s persuasive, not poetic.
  • It’s confident, but not boastful.
  • It only ever uses figurative language for emphasis.
  • It elevates facts and outcomes.
  • It engages the thinker by speaking like the thinker.

For additional guidance, please read the IBM Brand Center voice guidelines.


Tone describes how the IBM voice is expressed, and as such it can adapt to different situations. For example, the words chosen for error messages differ greatly from words you might see in an onboarding flow. The tone of error messages is economical and direct, and they are often written in short phrases instead of sentences. Onboarding flows typically take a little more time, with full sentences and friendly explanations.

The underlying voice in each case is consistent but with different word choices and a different sentence structure, the style and tone adapts.

Writing for accessibility

For detailed guidance about writing for all users, please read the Content design section of the IBM Accessibility site.

It provides detailed guidance on the following topics:

  • text alternatives for visuals or audio content
  • errors and other messages
  • labels and inputs for forms
  • guidance for providing adequate context

Further guidance can be found in the Web Content Accessibility guidelines.

Questions and feedback

If there’s something you need and cannot find, or if you need clarification about a particular use case, you can ask questions in the Carbon Slack channel, open a Github issue, or connect with us in one of our meetups.


External audiences can see the IBM Style guidance in The IBM Style Guide: Conventions for Writers and Editors (IBM Press, 2011).