As a subscriber to the verb-based confirmation dialogs school of thought (i.e. "Do Something", "Do Something Else" button labels being better than Yes/No), what do you think the wording of the perfect cancel editing dialog would be?

The kind of dialog I mean is one that is shown if the user has written some text on a page, but hits cancel, and now the app wants to confirm if they really want to lose their edits.

I'll go first with an example of what I mean:

Abandon changes?

[Keep Editing] [Abandon]

abandon changes dialog

This is just an example, I don't really like that phrasing. Quite looking forward to what you all think would be the "perfectly" worded confirm-cancel dialog!

  • 1
    I would favor Revert over Abandon in that case. Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 15:16
  • Why interrupt the user with a dialog in the first place? Why not exit as per their command, and allow an undo-action after the fact?
    – Fractional
    Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 17:05
  • @RedSirius generally I'm a big fan of that approach. On iOS in particular though, the undo pattern is not very well established. Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


Why not add declaratives within those replies?


Abandon changes?

  • No, keep editing
  • Yes, abandon

So this explicitly answers the question being asked, and provides confirmation of the next action that is desired.

It should be fairly straightforward to apply the declarative, action pattern to any of your confirmation dialogue questions.

  • An interesting suggestion. Does it become a bit verbose though? How important do you think is succinctness, i.e. if we can communicate the meaning in a single word is that better? Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 14:49
  • At that point you have competing priorities. Succinct can be good but insufficiently clear. Clarity may require more screen real estate.
    – user27355
    Commented Feb 13, 2014 at 14:56
  • 1
    @WilliamDenniss: If you're going to ask a yes/no question like "Abandon changes?", I think it makes sense to have "yes" and "no" in the answer choices. If you don't want the extra words on the choice buttons, change the header to a statement: "You have unsaved edits. Keep Editing | Discard". (And I do agree that "discard" is more standard, and less emotionally weighted, than "abandon".)
    – AmeliaBR
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 18:46
  • @AmeliaBR that's a very good point! The wording of the question influences the possible answers. Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 5:08

So far, the best I've come up with is:

Discard changes?

[Cancel] [Discard]

I also considered:

Discard changes?

[Keep] [Discard]

I think 'Discard' has an edge over 'Abandon'. I googled both, and 'Discard' seems to have wide adoption in application design. I personally liked the look of the dialog with "Discard" as the button verb compared to "Abandon".

Regarding "Keep" vs "Cancel", I don't feel that either is totally ideal. With "Cancel", there is the double-negative issue as the user hit a 'Cancel' button to bring this up (though 'Cancel' is a well established pattern on confirm-action dialogs). "Keep" I feel has some issues too, could the user possibly think that Keep means to save the data, rather than just cancel the cancel action?

Any better ideas?

  • I agree that "Keep" on its own is ambiguous. "Keep editing" makes it clear you're going back to editing mode. If it's possible to change the actual functionality, and not just the labels, a three-option dialog with "Keep Editing", "Save & exit" and "Discard edits" would be convenient for users (but a lot more text to read).
    – AmeliaBR
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 20:13
  • @AmeliaBR a three option dialog is possible, but as you say there's more text to read – I wonder if that fact negates the convenience of having the third option. Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 5:34

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