I am writing a tutorial on how to use a specific web application and I don't know which verbs to use. Shall I use "click" for buttons? But what if the user doesn't use a mouse? Contrary to "normal" applications, web applications can be visited by many different clients, e.g. PCs, Smartphones with Touchscreens, Voice Recognition Software... But the verb "select" fits better for radio buttons and check boxes in my opinion and would not be best for buttons.

Also how should I emphasize different elements such as button names, radio button or text field labels, strings to type in from the user, select entries...is there a guideline anywhere?

  • 2
    The "typography" section of your question would be better answered at Graphic Design SE. Actually they could probably answer the first part as well. Aug 14, 2012 at 11:33
  • Ah thank you I didn't know a graphic design SE existed, I will ask the second part there! Aug 14, 2012 at 12:20
  • After taking a look at the Graphic Design SE I am not sure it is the right place, however. It seems to be more concerned with image manipulation and less about typography and vocabularies. Aug 14, 2012 at 12:26
  • I swear either Writers or GD answered the "click/tap" question already, but I searched both and can't find it. Aug 14, 2012 at 14:50
  • "Select" also means to "identify" some blob of content (text on a page, files in a file browser, etc), usually as a precursor to a cut, copy, or delete operation. So I definitely wouldn't use that with a link; if I "select" a link I probably want to saves its URL to the clipboard, not to click. Aug 14, 2012 at 16:08

3 Answers 3


"Click" is pretty standard in my experience.

As far as the typography, my personal preference is to use bold for anything you want the user to click on or select (button names, etc.) and italics for names of screens or windows. It calls the most attention to the items you want the reader to actually do something with.

Microsoft does have a style guide, The Microsoft Manual of Style, which provides a lot more detail.

The most important thing is to be consistent throughout the document, and make sure it's consistent with other similar documents produced by your company or organization. I'd recommend either using a style guide or creating your own.


I think you can use "click" with relative impunity. Even someone on a tablet or smartphone knows that "click" equates to "tap" with a touch interface. If you really feel strongly about it, you can say "Click or tap" or "Click/tap," but ask around to make sure it doesn't sound clunky.

I agree that "select" is the right word for "choose one or more of these options," not for "interact with this button."

  • Re: "click" and "tap" - If the tutorial site has a separate mobile site, there should be no problem. Aug 15, 2012 at 0:35
  • "Tap or click to select the desired app." < Straight from Windows 8 Developer Preview help center.
    – Mussri
    Aug 27, 2012 at 22:34

If it is a button, then press is still appropriate, as is click or tap. It can be handy to have multiple synonyms for something, and press works as well, or perhaps even better, for a touch interface than it does for a mouse interface.

  • Press is not the same as click. In Windows and Mac GUI, since the first mouse actions were defined, press means hold down the mouse button without releasing it. This action is necessary, for example, to open a drop-down list.
    – user8356
    Mar 18, 2020 at 17:50

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