Say I have a preference that determines whether or not something is visible within an app. Because there are two states (visible or not visible), a checkbox would be the best UI element to use. But how should the text for it be phrased? Should it be phrased positively as an addition, as in:

Show advanced options (check means visible, no check means invisible)

or should it be phrased negatively as a removal, as in:

Hide advanced options (check means invisible, no check means visible)

Because consistency is desirable, it seems to me that there are four possibilities:

  1. Always use the positive statement
  2. Always use the negative statement
  3. Always use the statement where the default is checked
  4. Always use the statement where the default is unchecked.

What is the best way to do this?

3 Answers 3


I'd prefer the option you called "positive statement". The reason isn't only consistency. The other reasons are:

  • Positive statement style is a great way to introduce the functionality of the application. So config dialog could partially play the role of software help and documentation. It tells to a user like: "I can do this, and this, and this...". The probability of running and exploring config dialog could be higher comparing to running help and support.
  • In novice users' mental model adding new features (Show advanced options) could be perceived less risky, than removing ones (Hide advanced options). As removing could be interpreted as cutting down the software functionality which could lead to some restrictions in software, or breaking it, or, at least, changing the familiar way of interaction, while adding ones (positive statement) could be perceived as increasing current functionality and feeling masterity over it. See image below.
    enter image description here

An example of displaying preferences which are positive is Total Commander config dialog:
enter image description here

Though it's a general recommendation, as a context and some user-centered activities could bring some insights for the labeling task.


An alternative would be to offer two radio buttons rather than a checkbox, with both versions given. Gmail gives an example of this in use:

enter image description here

Or, as per Apple, giving a custom button UI that specifies the active state through the button, rather than through the label (in this case, they seem to be using the default option as the label text):

enter image description here

  • Your examples don't really explain which one should be first. For radio buttons, is it the positive that's first or the default? What sort of pattern is being followed with the iOS example (it seems inconsistent). Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 19:51
  • 1
    Sorry, your right — tried to clarify that in an edit with the iOS example. With Google, it's the default that's shown first (For example, for auto-replies, it lists the option as "Vacation responder off/Vacation responder on"). iOS also phrases the options as a default when combined with the text. Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 8:52

Positive sentence is preferable.

It is a base concept of mind mapping that is explain by a clearing process in our mind.

When you read a negative message our unconscious clear the sentence to retain the more important information.

For example if you want to stop smoking cigarettes it is sure unsuccessful to think "I don't want to smoke anymore".because our mind retains "want to smoke".

An other example is when someone you know dead the first time our thoughts are negative when we see the body of this person without live.but rapidly our mind clear this negative view to think about food things we shared with this person because it is better for our mind to think positive.

It is better to have objective like doing sport and so the reason why you have to stop smoking.

When you write unpositive sentence our mind works hard to translate it in positive version.

So with positive version no need to translate.

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