I am working on an internal web application. I am trying to find the best way to distinguish with verbiage a way to differentiate between actions the user can take and system status indicators.

For example: The user can create and configure a feed of data. After the feed is created they can see the status of "offline"/"online" based on the status of the system as well as the actions to "enable"/"disable" the feed. It looks as though this scenario may come up several times and I want to make sure to be consistent in the language I am using.

  1. Right now my rule of thumb is to try to find verbiage that is actionable for user actions and descriptive for status type elements. Is focusing on the verbiage the right approach or should I be looking more at the type of UI elements to make it more specific?
  2. Are there resources to help define and standardize the verbiage within a large application or throughout a suite of applications?
  • I start information circle i. An action should look like a button. A status should not look like a button.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


Verbiage and tone of voice is one of the trickier items to deal with in a large application or application suite.

For actions, try starting first with a verb.


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Here's an excellent article describing what makes good button/link verbiage. http://www.uxbooth.com/articles/the-grammar-of-interactivity/

They recommend testing out your action verbiage using the WYLTIWLT test. Say outloud, "Would you like to..." or "I would like to..." followed by the verbiage of your action.

e.g. Would you like to... save changes?


Besides verbiage, you can also use visual appearance to distinguish between action and statuses.

Your UI should make actions stand out from your statuses. Make buttons and link distinct from regular text and your status display. e.g. reserve a specific color for links that aren't used for anything else in the system or only use underlining for links.

If you need an action to control or toggle statuses e.g. Online/Offline. Consider either showing link/button to "Go Online" or to save space a dropdown menu might work.

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