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I'm developing a system in which users can 'link' separate items by using a 'Link' button. In the database, this 'link' is called a 'relation'. I'm inclined to change the text of the button to 'Relate' instead of 'Link' because it seems more correct. However, I fear users might be confused due to popular usage of the term 'relation'.

For example, you often see a list with 'Related terms' popping up on websites. When you look closely, most of the time this is a list of terms that might have something to do with the current term you have selected, but don't have an actual relation to it. I would rather call it 'Similar terms'.

Might 'link' therefore be a better choice after all? Or is 'relation' much more correct?

  • Irrespective of what the database calls it, and notwithstanding that it may or may not be a "relation" in a certain sense, the end user's perspective is that the function of the button is to 'establish a link' and therefore Link would be the right label for the button. – Kris Jan 6 '14 at 11:12
  • Do you mean like putting together the separate items into one relation (table) in your database? – Safira Jan 6 '14 at 11:16
  • @Safira: No, they're still two separate items but you establish a 'relationship' mainly for data integrity. So for example, when you delete item 1, item 2 will also be deleted. Or when you look up item 1, item 2 is shown as well. – kasimir Jan 6 '14 at 12:20
  • I think, link and relate are different even in daily English. So a native-English user would understand even if you use link. I prefer link cause relate is used to put items together into a relation (a table), right? – Safira Jan 8 '14 at 1:49
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Keep link. You need a verb that can be uttered as a command.

Verbs that are commands are best when they don't require and object.

The meaning of link as "connect or join up" does not require an object.

The meaning of relate as "show a connection between" can take an object. It doesn't always have to, but as a stand alone word relate makes me think of its other meaning:

feel sympathy for or identify with

So I would feel I was commanding the server to feel sympathy for whatever I've typed in.

If you are set on using relate then I would suggest relate to be what you use on the button. This removes the ambiguity with the above definition.

  • It would be helpful if there was some explanation for the downvote... As for your answer, I doubt if people would feel they're commanding the server to feel sympathy, but I agree 'relate' comes across as more ambiguous. – kasimir Jan 6 '14 at 12:24

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