It's for a timetabling application. There are two kinds of filters which determine placement of slots:

  1. concrete filters: The teacher chooses specific hours in a work-week and decides to either prefer, dis-prefer, must, must not work those hours.
  2. abstract filters: The teacher may give preference to certain abstract rules not bound by specific hours: "the teacher must work at-most 3 hours a day", "dis-prefer working back-to-back hours".

Now what are good terms for "abstract filter" and "concrete filter" that is direct enough?

And what are good depictions for both entities? I could depict a 'concrete filter' by a mouse pointer moving over to check a box.

  • 1
    Exact and approximate are possible options.
    – Ben Brocka
    Dec 27, 2011 at 14:16
  • Maybe there would be better answers in English Usage Dec 27, 2011 at 15:07
  • Direct and indirect also spring to mind as appropriate labels.
    – Erics
    Dec 27, 2011 at 23:06

3 Answers 3


You're thinking like an information architect when you should be thinking like a teacher.

In situations like this, where you're trying to fit a complex concept into a single or a few words, the best solution is to stop trying: the product is pushing back, saying "this isn't going to work".

Instead, write some copy. Ask yourself what the difference is between the controls and what users are going to be selecting. There's no harm in using the same language for yourself as you'll end up using to communicate with end users. In fact, bringing your internal language in sync with the language you use in the product will help you stay on the mark and keep thinking "like a teacher".

For instance, I'd change the first decision to Choose the specific hours in a work-week this teacher will be working: followed by a dropdown. For the second, I'd just show each option with radio buttons and perhaps a heading "Other options" like what @kaarel suggested.

From there, work backwards and see how you can translate that copy into terms which you can use in your design work. Following my above example, the former could be "Specific work-week hours" and the latter could be something like "Optional preferences".

PS. A warning sign is when you start using words like "abstract" and "dis-prefer". ;)

  • Thanks. Now I will let the buttons and boxes go with the flow of the users. I will rather use 'must', 'must not','prefer' and 'prefer not' Jan 23, 2012 at 5:11

Not really synonyms but maybe you could also try “Suitable hours” and “Other criteria”? As for the icons maybe two clock faces – one with a few colored sectors and another with ellipsis next to it?


Some synonyms for concrete:

  • detailed
  • accurate
  • precise
  • specific

Some synonyms for abstract:

  • ideal
  • indefinite

As pointed out on the comments, exact and approximate are also accurate alternatives.

You could probably find more answer in the English Usage site.

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