Is there a word (or a short sentence) that can describe category which includes Automatic or Manual as mutually exclusive options? Of course I mean without more context (if used, for example, to indicate manual transmission or automatic transmission in a vehicle we may use transmission type).

Usage examples:

  • Reply can be either automatic or manual if our ES doesn't have an existing solution to your problem.
  • Data will processed either automatically or manually according to this flag.

How to describe this flag? Is there a single word/short sentence for this that can be used out of context to generally describe an option that can have one of these N values?

Edit: A little bit more context about usage: I'm looking for a name to use for an enum type, it's reused in many places so I would use a generic word without too much context. I know it may be a bool value like IsAutomatic but in near future few more values will be added (for example, Automatic, Semiautomatic, and Manual).

  • So in other words, more than two options must be allowed for?
    – Erik Kowal
    Oct 21, 2014 at 9:59
  • @ErikKowal yes. Oct 21, 2014 at 10:05

6 Answers 6


I would go with control.

It gives the right sense of determining who is in charge of decision making: either a human (manual), or a machine (automatic).


A very general term for this choice would be Mode


Similar to answers above, I think a general "Automation" or "Automation Level" would be the description for effects gained by one of the choices you mentioned (anywhere from automatic to 'manual', or 'by-hand') and indicate that one was to select at which level one would expect to take or assign control.


the technique, method, or system of operating or controlling a process by highly automatic means, as by electronic devices, reducing human intervention to a minimum.

Particularly, as it applies to the technique or method (or extent thereof) of controlling a system in automatic fashion.


The best word for this may be a boolean flag, though the use of this may depend on your audience being familiar with such a term.

Other suggestions may be a bi-state or two-state flag, though I believe these to be less common.

  • You're right about context: it's name for an enum type, I just wonder if there is a better word for this (if I use a boolean flag IsAutomatic then I won't be able to add, later, a SemiAutomatic enum value). Oct 21, 2014 at 9:05
  • Then the situation is changed, the transmission type is not really mutually exclusive in the sense that it can only ever be one or the other, but one or another. Which is true of any variable: at any given point it will have only one value. Thus I would recommend that the name not include the type of the flag, only what it is for, e.g. transmissionType. The working of which could/should then be made clear through documentation where this could be detailed in a clearer manner.
    – Toby
    Oct 21, 2014 at 9:18
  • The example could possibly be adjusted to soleTransmissionType, but I feel this would be linguistically cumbersome and clumsy in the context of programming.
    – Toby
    Oct 21, 2014 at 9:20
  • Yes, actually it's a boolean value but I'm using an enum because pretty soon few options will be added (as soon as they'll be supported). Same type is reused in many places, that's why I wouldn't duplicate them and I'm looking for a context-free word. Oct 21, 2014 at 9:26
  • 1
    Yes, currently it's boolean, but if you want scope to change in the future, then in the future it will not be boolean and the term used should either allow for that (good), or be changed as the enum values are changed (not good). Generally it is known that a variable of a singular type, be it enum or integer or float, will only hold one value, i.e. your enum can be automatic or manual or semi, just as an integer can be 5 or 6 or 7. The control suggestion by @chiastic-security is a good one.
    – Toby
    Oct 21, 2014 at 9:50

How about "Gear Autonomy" or "Shift Autonomy"?

You can apply this to quite a few contexts that I can think of. "Reply Autonomy", "Process Autonomy". Anything describing a level of intervention or lack thereof.


Freedom from external control or influence; independence:

  • Or as an adjective, autonomous (e.g. for a boolean option)
    – pimlottc
    Aug 7, 2015 at 19:15

Binary choice describes a situation where the possible alternatives are yes/no, on/off etc.

I'd therefore suggest naming your flag binary value.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.