What is the best phrase to use considering that these are short error messages that is positioned right beside the labels / input they are referring to. For example, there's a missing email address, what is the best way to tell the user? (I omitted the label as it's redundant considering that it's already beside the label.)

  1. Tell them what to do: "Enter a value."
  2. Tell them what's wrong: "This cannot be left blank." OR "This field is missing."

Which of the 2 is the best approach? I'm aware that combining these two are good for general error messages (usually at the top of the form or where there's sufficient space). But if you only have little space (just one-line), which is better?

1 Answer 1


I use those format:

Fieldname cant be empty


Please complete fieldname


Please enter a valid fieldname

You can study in deep error messages here:

  • 1
    I would phrase the first in a positive manner: "Fieldname should have a value" Phrases with "not"s (and his friends) can become confusing very quickly, especially when combined with "or" and/or "and". Jul 27, 2013 at 10:22
  • Yes, I think too positive manners are more clear.
    – WalterV
    Jul 27, 2013 at 11:15

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