Using ‘Please’ in error messages

March 7, 2009

BJ asked the Lone Writer SIG of STC whether developers should use ‘Please’ in their error messages:

My developers tend to use “please” when they are writing instructions in wizards, error messages, and other places in the UI. (Please browse to the ….) Obviously, I don’t put “please” in front of every step when I’m documenting something, and the please on the UI seems like an unnecessary word.

I don’t see anything about this in the Microsoft Manual of Style. And right now, I can’t remember if other wizards/UI text I’ve seen use “please.”

Any opinions on this or does anyone know of a recognized style guide that addresses this? While I hate to ask my developers to be impolite, I want to put a “no please” rule into our UI style guide. (I pretty much control the UI style guide when it comes to text, so this isn’t something I have to run by a committee.)

So much of our UI text and documentation style was set 10-12 years ago when most users had never seen Windows. Now that most users are more familiar with computers I’m trying to streamline the text, and I’m running into words like “please” that I never paid attention to before.

My response:

[In my opinion] ‘please’ is a noise word and an imperative call to action is all that’s necessary (e.g. Enter your password not Please enter your password).

Also consider translation — how will the ‘please’ (in the context of the call to action) translate in other languages?


One comment

  1. Hi,
    for the record, the MSTP includes this guideline in the Messages topic:

    Avoid please. It can be interpreted to mean that a required action is optional.

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