Suppose there's a system where the user can make a blog post. This user can choose to allow or disable comments to their posts. He's going to make this choice for every post he creates.

Now, the default would be to allow comments in the post. Which would be the best option? Have a checkbox with a "Allow comments in this post" label, which is checked by default. Or have a checkbox with "Disable comments in this post" label, which is unchecked by default?

Why is any option better than the other?

Is there any place I could get more information about topics like this and user behavior studies?


Think of it via the form perspective.

Checkboxes are commonly used to add to the existing form (ex: add me to your newsletter, remember me, etc).

So in the perspective it should be "add comments to your post" where a check will enable it. Putting disable with a check is kind of contradictory: I'm "adding" a disable?

Also to add to what you're asking whether the default for adding comments should be checked or not: which one is commonly used? Find the data then implement it!


Possitive wording

The general rule is that positive wording is better in general since it's easier to interpret and tends to be shorter which is always good in checkboxs' labels. Microsoft agrees with these in their guidelines.

If it is the case of a blogpost, I think it's not a big deal, since users should later be able to delete the comments and deactivate them.

Not for blogs but sometimes it can really matter:

The "Transportation Department Form" Case (see on youtube)

It seems that people doesn't want to make decisions, so either if the checkbox's label is "I choose to donate" or "I choose NOT to donate", so they tend to leave it blank, resulting in a incredibly much higher amount of people "accepting" to donate when the checkbox label was "I choose NOT to donate". (with blank defaults)

This tell us how important the labeling and also the default state of the checkbox can be, so you should always analyze each particular case, i.e. you should consider what are the immediate consequences of a bad or unintentional action for them or other people, how undo-able is their action, what's the common case, etc.
E.g: In legal-related and medical forms there are cases where you need to be really careful about how you make a statement due to the really bad consequences it could produce.


Labels for check-boxes should always be phrased in a positive/active way. As a rule of thumb, consider your alternative without the verbs:

comments in this post

It’s obvious that an empty check-box next to this label means ‘disable’ (or ‘forbid’) and a filled one stands for ‘allow’ (or ‘enable’). You may make it explicit for sure – you may even be required to by the applicable style guide, which will be language-dependent. Note that there are probably more languages that have to paraphrase ‘disable’ as “don’t enable”, because they’re lacking a lexeme for it, than those that need “don’t forbid” for ‘allow’.

So don’t use verbs like these in checkbox labels: hide, deactivate, disable, (turn) off, exit, leave etc.

There are many examples of GUIs that get this wrong. The View menu in Preview.app (and others) in OS X is an example where it’s not clear at first that Apple is doing something wrong, but they are:

Preview.app View menu (lower part)

The check-mark in the middle left (marked blue) is not really a check-box, it indicates – together with grayed text – the selected option out of a radio group. That’s conventionally done with round bullet marks (although sometimes two can be activated at the same time here). The check mark above that actually is used to indicate whether a single “show” option is active. That convention could also have been used in the lower part (marked red), but Apple currently favors lengthy natural language action labels which toggle state, i.e. here “show” becomes “hide” upon activation and vice versa and “enter” becomes “exit” (or “leave”, I don’t know).


Though there has been a lot of focus on language in the other answers (which is an important consideration), I believe that the key focus should be on heuristics (this Smashing Magazine article provides a great introduction into heuristics).

The Default Effect

For your question it's very important to consider the default effect, in that people have the tendency to not adjust default settings. There have been a number of studies to support this:

  • Do Defaults Save Lives? - a study which examined countries' organ donor rates based on their registration form (opt-in vs opt-out). It was found that countries that went with the opt-in method for becoming an organ donor has significantly lower organ donor rates in comparison countries that had the opt-out method. Basically, the report found that people more often than not chose to not change the default option on the form.
  • Do users change their settings? - a study that examined whether people changed their default settings on Microsoft Word. It was found than less than 5% of users changed any of their settings at all.

Understanding the heuristics of the default effect, if you are wanting users to allow comments, research suggests that users will be sticking with the default option you implement (where it's opting-out to allow comments or opting-in to disable comments).

Language being used

The language to use will be dependent on your writing style for the rest of the website. Though it is important to be positive in your wording (as referenced in the other answers), ultimately it needs to match and blend in with the rest of your content on your site.

In summary, there are many instances in which there are checkboxes left enabled by default making users opt-out (refer to my screenshot of WordPress settings below).

WordPress Settings

Ultimately, heuristics will play a much larger role in determining whether users will be wanting to adjusting the default settings (in this instance, adjusting the default settings to disable comments). I recommend that you keep a positive and consistent language with your wording on the checkbox and that you take the default effect into consideration to help achieve your desired outcome (in this case, have the option defaulted to allow comments).

  • Note that, regarding the organ donor thing, people aren’t presented with any form, and opting in or out is not as easy as clicking a checkbox. Thus the extrapolation is a bit wild. – Philippe-André Lorin Sep 8 '18 at 14:44

Instead of checkbox you can try with the toggle switches(on/off). Now days most of the forms you find this kind of options. Please have a look at the below images to get an idea.

toggle Button switches

![toggle switch][2]

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