Select, choose, click style guide

Subject: Select, choose, click style guide
From: "Michael West" <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2008 20:14:43 +1000

> > Can someone suggest a good style guide that covers topics like "select

> > vs. choose" and "click vs. click on"? I used to use the Microsoft Manual

> > of Style, which recommended against using "select," but I'm not entirely

> > sure anymore. I need a new bible.

I think you'll find that the MMoS editors preferred to reserve "select" for
the act of making selections on a property sheet. You "select" and "clear"
the options. "Click" doesn't work there because clicking could result in
either selecting or clearing.

"Choosing from" a menu draws on familiar, conventional English, and I
recommend it for that reason. "From the File menu, choose Print." We
normally speak of choosing *from* -- not *on* -- a menu.

If you follow that convention, then when you tell your reader to "click"
something, they will understand that it is likely to be an object other than
a menu item. This is a useful cue. When I see the instruction "Click Print"
in a well-written how-to, I look for a button that says "Print". If I don't
find one, I assume the writer of the instruction is a moron.

Most of these word choices (which people may or may not choose to call
"rules") are based on the proposition that learning to use a computer or a
software application should not require learning a whole new vocabulary and

Using these words consistently (and I include consistency with industry
standard practice in that adverb) makes your audience's job a lot easier.


Mike West

Melbourne, Australia


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