What Not To Do

The next time I get asked, “What’s your greatest weakness?” I’m going to answer — without hesitation — “Double-negatives.”

Any time I saw this question on a test in high school or college, I started to hyperventilate.

Which of the following statements are not true:
A) You never don’t understand double-negatives.
B) You always don’t not understand double-negatives.
C) None of the above are never true.
D) All of the above are true on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
E) Your brain just exploded.

As a user-interaction designer, this internal weakness of mine is a gift.  Since I’m hypersensitive to double-negatives (one might call them my own personal kryptonite), I can help by making simple changes to the words when I see something in a UI that causes me to have cold sweats.

Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about.  When I first saw this screen in an app that will remain anonymous, I threw up in my mouth a little.

what not to do

Let’s count the number of negative statements.

  1. The title: “Hide Updates”
  2. The text: “Updates that aren’t selected will not be installed.”
  3. The checkbox: “Don’t notify me about these updates again.”

That’s 4 negative statements.  In a message box with 17 words.  Nice.

Here’s how to redo this same message box, using all positives.

  1. The title: “Show Updates”
  2. The text: “Updates that are selected will be installed.”
  3. The checkbox: (unchecked) “Yes, Please notify me about these updates again.”


The general rule for questions posed to the user: Write them in the positive.

General rule for checkboxes: The act of checking a box should turn that thing ON, not OFF.

See Don’t Make Me Think, and especially GUI Bloopers, Dont’s and Do’s for more commentary.

3 thoughts on “What Not To Do”

  1. I didn’t just not laff out loud!!! Srsly though, my money’s on this was a Microsoft Product. 🙂

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