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.
Let’s count the number of negative statements.
- The title: “Hide Updates”
- The text: “Updates that aren’t selected will not be installed.”
- 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.
- The title: “Show Updates”
- The text: “Updates that are selected will be installed.”
- 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.