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When a user interacts with a button on a website, and the buttons gives some confirmation text to let user know that the action has been performed successfully or unsuccessfully, should there be a period in the text phrase that is displayed?

For example, a user clicks "Save", and there are 3 possible text display scenarios: (assume the text appears in a place easily seen by the user, and that the user needs to know one of the three options)

  1. "Data saved"
  2. "There was no data to save"
  3. "Data was not able to be saved"

-Should there be a period in those messages? Why/why not? I couldn't decide, but I know I want to standardize with one way or the other...Thoughts?

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This may be a duplicate of ux.stackexchange.com/questions/18671/… –  Mike Wheaton Aug 21 '13 at 15:30
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2 Answers

Punctuation is used to reveal the structure of written text.

A period separates sentences in a paragraph.

All style guides call for no punctuation in captions, titles, and headings, with the exception of question and exclamation marks. From The Oxford Guide to Style. 2002. Oxford: Oxford University Press:

Do not use full point in headlines, column headings, or titles of works, even where these take the form of a full sentence.

Examples on Microsoft's Guidelines further support the said here.

Having said all this, if your message is a full sentence and requires additional punctuation marks like comma or semicolon, you should include a full stop at the end.

In your examples there's neither a paragraph nor other required punctuation marks. Adding a full stop has no benefit. So you shouldn't user a full stop at the end.

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I agree. Do you have a source? –  Tom Aug 21 '13 at 21:09
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There's two rules of thumb I follow when approaching this kind of thing.

  • Titles never get a full-stop.
  • Context decides the rest.

What I mean to say is that messages that intend to alert a user to a change in status get no period - indicating there hasn't been a full-stop, and that there's still something to do. Leaving out a full-stop for things like this, helps to make the process feel like it's still continuing. These are State-Changes, and their tooltips convey that one item is being monitored as it changes, and the user is being informed of it as an ongoing process.

Messages that indicate something has been finished, completed, or sent get a full-stop because it indicates that a process has started and ended, and is no longer going on.

"Save" wouldn't get a period because the document is still being edited (presumably speaking). "Sent" would, as it's indicated an email has been started, typed, and sent - a process that generally can't be taken back.

I've included some examples below.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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