Blogging Tips / Error Messages / WordPress development / Writing Style Guides

WordPress and Core Messages

wordpressWhat’s your take on the WordPress error messages? How do the wording, style and tone of error messages  such as but not limited to cheatin ‘uh,  are you sure you want to do this, This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it affect you? Do you find them too American and too breezy?

Fred Meyer thinks word usage needs to be fixed. Fred’s article focused on language style and tone is WordPress Core Needs a Writing Style Guide and it has received lots of attention.

WordPress’s written content doesn’t need to be devoid of humor (actually, I like MailChimp a lot for that), but it does need to transition fully out of the gee-whiz/ain’t-I-cool/ain’t-you-stupid school of garage software writing.

Matt disagrees.

I’m a Canadian and I smiled the first time I read the Howdy message in the invitation years ago and it still makes me smile today. The light tone, words, style and tone aren’t an issue for me at all. Are they an issue for you?

63 thoughts on “WordPress and Core Messages

  1. I’m neither American, nor Canadian, but don’t have a problem with them, and find them pretty refreshing, actually. WordPress is a great free platform, and a far superior interface to things such as FB and Instagram

  2. I got the “Cheating” message one time, and didn’t understand why they thought I was cheating. I haven’t seen many 404 error messages lately, but I never did understand what 404 means.

    The “happiness engineer” annoys me, since I’m feeling like the WordPress attitude toward bloggers has changed. I feel like WordPress now takes us content-creators for granted, and doesn’t care if we’re happy. After all, WordPress has billions and billions of bloggers. The emphasis now seems to be on selling premium themes and upgrades.

  3. I’ve noticed the casual approach taken by a lot of tech companies. Mentioned it to my son, a developer and a member of that culture. He says it’s pretty typical, in keeping with the informal corporate style of many Silicon Valley companies. I rather like it myself. Wouldn’t want to see it from my bank, for example, but it seems appropriate coming from techies.

    • It’ interesting to read your son’s feedback. Thanks for sharing it. I do agree with you regarding financial institutions though. I want formal English in any and all things to do with money.

  4. I’ve never seen the term “Core Messages” before reading this. Now that I know what they are I can say that I’ve encountered them and never once given a second thought to how the message was worded. So I guess that I’d have to say that I’m entirely indifferent to the wording and that they are not an issue for me.

  5. I like the light and breezy warnings. Being a novice, I get a little too stressed when I make the wrong move so it’s nice to read a ‘friendly warning’ message, despite the oxymoron. :)

  6. Agree 100%. I think WordPress is shooting itself in the foot by the way it presents itself as, well, puerile. I’d suggest a complete overhaul, starting with ‘Happiness Engineer’.

  7. What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I remember ever getting one of these messages? Maybe I’m not paying attention. I’m pretty certain I’ve never seen some of them, like “Are you sure you want to do this?” Others I’m absolutely certain I’ve never seen.

    Is there a place where I can learn to do wrong things, so I can get error messages, too? ;-)

    • You are so funny. :) I thought we all have at the least experienced 404 (page not found) error messages if not on our own blogs then on other blogs.

  8. Funny, I never really noticed! I probably don’t work on anything too complicated so don’t see these error messages. I do like the casual style WordPress uses; on email communications, but the linked article has a point. I’m American, and sort of get the humor. One of my relatives married a man from Ecuador, and he was telling us the other day how there is no sarcasm where he lives, so when we use that, he doesn’t understand. Makes me think some of the casual language is a bit confusing to some folks. Maybe a good mix of being more informative, and not messing with frustrated users is the right way to go….but still keep it casual in tone? Interesting question–thanks for bringing it up.

  9. I don’t have a strong opinion but I do appreciate the gentle humor when I have become “virtually” lost and I get the “nothing to see here!”. That makes me smile and a smile is always an anxiety alleviator. :-)

  10. I definitely understand the ‘ain’t I cool/ain’t you stupid’ observation. I have noticed that I have rarely commented on wordpress forums since January, for this reason. Although, I am a bit ignorant when it comes to the tech side of blogging, and I am not very cool, so perhaps it is my problem, not theirs!

    So what do I want? Stay true to yourself WP but soften it a little for us near middle age technophobes who, despite our many failings, are not stupid.

    • I don’t have issues with the error messages that are built into the WordPress core. The one I most frequently experience is the front page error message. By default the front page of the blog is the only page that will display all published posts on it. As soon as the blogger publishes a post not a page the error message will be gone. When I help answering support forum questions I see quite a few blogs with the error message and have to explain why it’s there and how to deal with it.

  11. I’m a big fan of the “light and breezy” tone but speaking as a Brit, too many of the messages miss the mark due to being too Americanised. Some of the cultural references I simply don’t get, others make me think “yeah, fine, whatever.” WP would do well to consider that they have a very sizeable audience outside of NA.

    • Hi there,
      I’m an affable Canadian who has no strong feelings for or against either American or British colloquialisms. I understand what’s meant and the tone and style don’t matter much to me.

  12. I suspect that there’s never any chance of pleasing everyone. I personally like light-hearted, though I have no idea what you’re talking about? ;) I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a light and breezy error message.

  13. Thanks. I read Fred Meyer’s article.

    When I was new to WordPress and everything was strange and worrying, the messages were relaxing – a kind of ‘Don’t worry – we are not corporate – relax – nothing is wrong – easily fixed – no problemo – breathe deeply, in and out – see, it’s easy’.

    Light and breezy was exactly what I wanted.

    I thought of the tone rather differently when I came across protests from users over new ‘features’ that didn’t seem to be for the benefit of users.

    Then the breezy tone rang more hollow in my ears.

    But it wasn’t like it was the evil witch offering the poisoned apple to Snow White. After all, WordPress is pretty damned good.

    So my reaction to Fred Meyer’s article – Storm in a teacup.

  14. I’m sure you can guess my response! I changed all the defaults virtually as soon as I set up the blog. Interestingly not everyone realises you can set your own responses and someone asked me how to do it when we’d started visiting each others’ blogs. Having said that, yours is quite formal here.

    I don’t mind the embarrassing thing particularly. I do hope I don’t see a bowling one.

    But I don’t like their youthful Camp America approach. It would be nice if they catered for their older non-American slightly experienced bloggers from time to time. I know you’ve been blogging for longer than I have, but after seven years I do get a bit bored with being told how to upload photos, or whatever. I’ll take a look at Fred’s article, sounds like I may agree with his approach :D

    • I changed the comment prompt at the bottom of the Settings > Discussion page to remove the Howdy (which always makes me smile) and it’s gone, but I really don’t care about the rest.

      As far as reversing the order to comment – uh uh – I won’t be doing that. I’m always worried that I may have missed answering a comment. When the new ones are at the top it’s less of a worry for me.

      • I find the little orange thingy great for notifications and from time to time I check the archive to make sure I haven’t missed anything.

        I persuaded someone to change their comment order recently because I complained about how personally inconvenient it was :D

  15. This is a social media platform. So it’s not formal language – I have no problem with it.
    On the other hand, in the nightly news bulletins – grrrr….

    • Hmmm that’s an interesting response. I haven’t subscribed to those. I can’t possibly add anything more into my schedule. So I don’t know what you mean.

      • Sorry, I was referring to the nightly television and radio station news. They seem to be adding more colloquial words and abbreviations into their content, when I would prefer correct language.

  16. I appreciate when I’m informed that it’s time to go bowling. I don’t bowl, but I appreciate the light-hearted humor.

    • Oh my! I’ve never seen the bowling one and I’m somewhat envious that you have. It appears we are both in the light and breezy camp. lol :)

      • I’m only using the free I wonder, what are core messages?

        Once I have checked all of my notifications, the WP message informs me that it’s time to go bowling.

        The post about which “Matt disagrees” was interesting. I suppose when one is trying to use WP in other ways (serious business or blogging), snarky or condescending messages might prove frustrating.

        As an amateur blogger, I can pretty much figure out what the messages really mean. And as an older (older than the WP gang) blogger, most of the humour is lost on me anyway, except perhaps, “He’s dead, Jim!”


        • The core of WordPress is our core too so don’t be thrown off by the fact that Fred is a WordPress.ORG blogger. These messages are the messages we get when a post or page has been deleted and results in a 404 (page not found) for example. There are also other messages for other errors.

          Also note that each theme designer has provided their own error messages and some of what you see is not from the core of WordPress. Some are the theme designer’s error messages and consequently reflect their culture and their colloquialisms.

          Canada is multi-cultural and that doesn’t mean melting pot. It’s the gist of the message that important to me and I think we tend to be very accepting of cultural variations in phraseology. Granted there is a very small and pretentious minority who insist only British spellings and formal phraseology are “proper” and nothing else is acceptable. I used to be among them many years ago until I got off my pedestal. Now I SNORT! when anyone lays that on me.

      • Click the message box at the top right of screen and view your archive of notifications. Click on any of the left column icons. If it’s empty, you’ll get this message.

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