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Be Relatable

You need to design your skill so that Alexa talks with your customers, not at them. Your customers need Alexa to speak concisely to help them understand what information your skill needs and to feel confident about what is happening.

Patterns and use cases

Write it the way you’d say it

We don’t write the way we speak. Writing is a much more formal undertaking, because most people can read faster than they can speak and we can convey much more information in this way. Instead, you need to write dialog in the way people speak. The best way to test if your script works is to act it out, one person as Alexa and the other as your customer. You’ll quickly realize that writing as you normally would sounds stilted and strange when spoken aloud.

Additionally, you can’t recycle content from a website or other written channels and expect it to work. Don’t prompt customers with a menu of options or tell them how to speak or try to get customers to use jargon-heavy terms. Instead, let customers speak in their own words.

Consider the following guidelines when writing out your dialog:

  • Keep interactions brief; make every word count.
  • Use contractions to keep the language from sounding formal or stilted.
  • Add pauses and punctuation that mimics actual speech cadence, not formal writing.
  • Avoid repetitive phrases.

Do

User: “Alexa, open Plan-a-Trip.”

Alexa: “Let’s plan this trip. Where would you like to go?”

Don't

User: “Alexa, open Plan-a-Trip.”

Alexa: “Let’s plan this trip. Say, “I’d like to go to a city name” to say where you’d like to go. Say, “I’ll leave on a specific date” to say when you’re leaving. Say, “I’m leaving from a city name” to say your departure city. What would you like to do? ”

Be brief

Customers need Alexa to speak concisely without extra words. This helps customers understand what Alexa is saying and feel confident about what is happening. Longer responses tend to be more difficult to follow and remember.

Apply the one-breath test

When you’re scripting out what Alexa says, read aloud what you’ve written. If you can say the words at a conversational pace with one breath, the length is probably good. If you need to take a breath, consider reducing the length.

For a response that includes successive ideas, such as steps in a task, read each idea separately. While the entire response might require more than one breath, make sure you only take breaths between and not during ideas.

Be contextually relevant

List options in order of most to least contextually relevant. Avoid giving the customer options in an order that changes the subject of the conversation, then returns to it again. Make the first item in a list be the most relevant option related to the action the customer just took. This helps customers understand and verbalize their choices better without spending time and energy figuring out what's most relevant to them.

Do

Alexa: “You can watch a rerun of the last episode tomorrow at nine PM. I can tell you when a new episode is playing or let you know which episodes are available for streaming. Which would you like?”

Don't

Alexa: “That show isn't playing. I can tell you about similar types of shows, when another show is playing, or tell you when a new episode is playing. You can also pick shows by genre. This show plays again tomorrow. Which would you like?”

Use parallel language

Use noun and verb forms consistently, especially for items in a series. See more on lists.

Do

Alexa: “I can help you get a ride, tip your driver, check surge pricing, or get a copy of a receipt.”

Don't

Alexa: “I can help you get a ride, tipping your driver, receipts for your last ride, or surge check.”

Add variety

Use variety to inject a natural and less robotic sound into a conversation and make repeat interactions sound less rote or memorized. For example, you can structure a dialog to randomly select from reasonable synonyms of the same prompt.

Introduce variety if the customer will hear the same prompt frequently, such as in your opening and closing prompts. This kind of variety is a good way to add personality.

Vary Alexa’s responses in repetitive tasks

Because customers interact with Alexa so frequently, it's important to use a variety of responses for common or repeated interactions. This applies to discourse markers (words that separate statements such as “well” or “okay” for instance) and escalating error prompting (low confidence and no speech) strategies. These responses can be randomly selected to prevent Alexa from sounding robotic.

In this example, the customer answers a quiz question incorrectly:

Do

Alexa: “That’s not quite right. One more try: What was the year the Bill of Rights was signed?”

User: “1812?”

Alexa: “Shoot- that wasn’t it. The correct answer was 1791.”

Don't

Alexa: “That’s not quite right. One more try: What was the year the Bill of Rights was signed?”

User: “1812?”

Alexa: “That’s not quite right. Let’s move on.”

Use conversation markers

When customers converse, they use marker words and phrases to organize and direct topics, which help divide the conversation into more comprehensible chunks. Customers using your skill benefit from marker words and phrases, too.

In this example, Alexa directs the customer about how to wash a sweater by using conversation markers for each step:

Alexa: "Okay, there are three steps to wash a sweater."


(Half second pause.)


Alexa: "First, turn the sweater inside out and wash it on the gentle cycle using regular detergent."



(Half second pause.)


Alexa: "Next, put the sweater in the dryer for 10 minutes at low temperature."



(Half second pause.)


Alexa: "Then, lay the sweater on a flat surface to finish drying. That’s it!"



Use timeline markers

“First,” “halfway there,” “then,” and “finally” help set expectations about duration, sequence, and readiness for next steps. Use these words when multiple steps or significant time investment will be part of the experience. However, avoid using timeline markers for quick interactions.

Use acknowledgements and feedback

“Thanks,” “got it,” “okay,” “great,” and “sure” let the customer know that he or she has been understood or that information has been received.

Use pointers

“This,” “that,” “here’s,” and “it” help to identify subjects that have been previously referenced or are about to be mentioned.

Use transitions

“Now,” “so,” “all right,” and “next” help to introduce change when moving to a different topic.

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