5 Rules for Choosing the Right Words on Button Labels

From UX Movement http://bit.ly/2M0zE20

What your buttons say is just as important as how they look. Using the wrong words on your button labels cause users confusion, more work, and slower task times. If you want users to take the right action on your app, you need to use the right words on your button labels.

The five rules for actionable button labels will help you choose the right words. Follow these five rules and you’ll make it easy for users to take the right action on your app whenever they come across a button.

Rule 1: Use Action Verbs

Your button labels should inspire users to act with action verbs. When users read an action verb, they instantly know what the button will do. This allows them to take action without having to read any supporting text such as confirmation screen dialog.


Compare that with generic “yes/no” button labels that are often used on confirmation screens. Users have to read the dialog before they can take action. If they skip or misread the dialog, they’ll likely press the wrong button. This not only makes taking action riskier, but it forces users to do more work.

In the example below, the buttons with action verbs are still actionable when the dialog is blocked out. But the buttons with “Yes/No” labels are not actionable without reading the dialog first.


Rule 2: Use Precise Diction

Each action verb you use has a specific connotation. If your diction isn’t precise, users can misinterpret what action the button does.


For example, the words “delete” and “remove” are similar in meaning, but they have different connotations. “Delete” implies that an item will be erased from the system. “Remove” implies that an item will be separated from a given group. Using them in the wrong context can cause users concern about pressing the button.

In the context of a playlist, the “delete” label makes users think they’ll lose their song. This is the wrong word choice because that’s not what happens. The “remove” label is more precise because the song is taken out of the playlist, but not lost.

Rule 3: Use Everyday Language

Words used in everyday language are more familiar to users than technical words and computer jargon. Familiar words on button labels allow users to understand the action quicker because they have more experience with them.


Everyday language does not include slang because only a small subset of people use and understand it. Use caution with slang because it becomes harder to understand when it’s translated to other languages.

To illustrate, the word “submit” is a technical term not used in everyday language. When users see it on a label, it’s unclear what the button will do. In contrast, the word “post” is used more often when discussing online publication. This makes “post” a better button label that’s quicker and easier to understand than “submit”.

Rule 4: Use the Active Imperative Form

The more words there are on a button label, the more carefully users have to read it. When you use the imperative form in an active voice, you minimize the number of words and make the button label easier to scan.

The active imperative form turns verb phrases into commands. This allows you to drop the subject and unnecessary articles for a concise button label. All that’s needed on your button label is a verb with an adverb or direct object.


By using commands, the button labels become more authoritative and trustworthy. They give users a feeling of certainty that the button will perform the intended action. Users need this certainty when they’re making decisions.

When using the active imperative form, avoid instructional verbs that tell users how to use their device. A common mistake is to stick “click here” at the beginning of a button label. This not only makes the label wordy, but it’s also generic and redundant for the user. Instead, use verbs that are unique and describe the action to give users an incentive to “click.”


Rule 5: Use Sentence Style Capitalization

The capitalization style of your button label expresses your tone to users. Tone isn’t what you’re saying but how you’re saying it. This creates an emotional reaction in users that either engages or repels them.


A sentence style capitalization is best because it conveys a friendly that invites users to press your buttons. Most reading that users do is reading of sentences. This means they’re most familiar with sentence case. When they read it on your buttons, it feels like someone is speaking to them.

In contrast, title style capitalization has a more serious tone. A serious tone feels impersonal and makes buttons less inviting to press. When users read it, it feels like a machine is speaking to them instead of a person. Title case breaks the user’s natural reading flow and its odd appearance distracts them from understanding the message


An all uppercase style isn’t good either because it conveys a loud and obnoxious tone. Users feel as if someone is screaming at them to press it. Not only that, but it also has lower readability due to the lack of word shape. This makes it inaccessible for users with dyslexia and other visual disabilities.

An all lowercase style conveys a flippant and lackadaisical tone. It makes users feel as if no care or attention was put into the button label. Users can sense a lack of professionalism and not trust the button.

Actions Speak as Loud as the Words

When it comes to button labels, the action speaks as loud as the words. If you choose the wrong words on your button labels, the call to action won’t matter.

The five rules of actionable button labels will guarantee that your buttons get some action. No longer will users have doubt, confusion, or fatigue when they read your buttons. Instead, they’ll have clarity and motivation to take the right action.

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