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Should an interface ever say “please”?

According to Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines (UX Guide) for Windows 7 and Windows Vista:

Avoid the word "please," except in situations in which the user is asked to do something inconvenient (such as waiting) or the software is to blame for the situation.
Correct: Please wait while Windows copies the files to your computer.

I always use "please" in my error message for it to be polite, like

... please enter a value in the username field.

Why do we need to avoid the word "please" for errors like this? Won't adding "please" make the message more polite?

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    @AndroidHustle Close, but this question is more specific - and should stay open imho Sep 7, 2012 at 8:19
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    @BennySkogberg ok, that's a fair observation, I don't agree though. If you read the question and the approved answer from Jimmy Breck-McKye, that situation is very much transferable to this situation. Meaning that error messages should aid users in completing the task rather than "excusing itself" by saying "Please". Imho the reasoning behind the two questions is totally transferable, but maybe were just seeing it differently. =) Sep 7, 2012 at 8:27
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    @AndroidHustle Förmodligen är det en sån där Stockholm vs. Skåne-grej igen :-) Sep 7, 2012 at 8:30
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    @BennySkogberg haha! det har du kanske rätt i! =) Sep 7, 2012 at 8:34
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    @AndroidHustle - +1 just for spelling my name correctly. Everyone gets it wrong. Sep 7, 2012 at 8:42

2 Answers 2


Not only Microsoft uses the guidance on avoiding please in Error Messages. OpenOffice, a Microsoft Office competitor, also lets the developer know to avoid please:

Use “please” only rarely, if ever. Sometimes lengthy instructions or error messages might need a touch of politeness added to one of several sentences, but generally, do not use “please” in English. If you still feel the need, at least avoid using “please” more than once in one text or group of sentences. For example, you could use “please” in the initial instructions on the first page of a wizard, but then not on any of the other pages. Simple imperative sentences are always preferred.

However, there are cultural differences. In German the word "bitte" is almost always used in Error Messages, so be careful to use Google Translate or other automated translating services in a Multi-lingual application.

  • Interesting - do you think this might be MS's way of being a grammar nazi? Are they doing this for "The greater good" so that we all learn to use please properly or are they genuinely doing it with UX in mind?
    – TJH
    Sep 7, 2012 at 7:59
  • @TJH From your reply I can see you're not the biggest fan of Microsoft, but they have spent and are spending a lot on User Experiece research and test. I would think they have UX close to heart on all they do. Their horrible browser Internet Explorer does technical errors up to version 9, but from a UX perspective it's the only browser having a bigger back-button and thus implementing Fitts's Law on the webs most used control. Sep 7, 2012 at 8:07
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    @TJH wow... "grammar nazi"...? why would MS care how people use the word "Please" in their every day life? Sep 7, 2012 at 8:12
  • I'm not anti-MS at all, don't have emotional attachments to OS's like many do. I don't know WHY MS would care I'm merely wondering whether they're doing it for the sake of THAT UI that you're wording, or if they're doing it to try and solve the bigger problem of the word 'Please' becoming a cliché - all within the scope of "on a computer" - I'm not suggesting MS should be the custodian of the English Language's usage.
    – TJH
    Sep 7, 2012 at 8:26
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    @TJH An important thing to remember is that the quality of third party applications developed for Windows will ultimately reflect on how the overall opinion is formed in the end user regarding the platform. In other words, MS benefits from third party developers making good quality software for their platform. It seams obvious but that's all there is to it Sep 7, 2012 at 8:33

Overused words lose their meaning. It is called Cliche.

If you use please, and thank you for every user action then the effect flattens and you don't have its full strength when you need it to sound meaningly.

Avoid the word "please," except in situations in which the user is asked to do something inconvenient [...]

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