I would like to combine the "Press the button repeatedly" and "Press the button shortly" into one sentence, but the "repeatedly shortly" does not seem correct to me. Even the "shortly" seems not the best word for it. Repeatedly means like clicking through elements of a list, and by shortly I mean don't hold the button down, but release immediately after pressed.

What I would like to express is that someone has to repeatedly press the button to select something from a list of choices, but they should not keep the button continuously pressed for too long.


I also look for the term when someone presses the button and keeps it pressed for a slightly longer time, for some other function to be activated. "Press the button .... "

Edit 2:

The action needs not be necessarily very fast. It's similar to clicking through stations on a radio, until we stumble upon something we like. The main emphasys should not be on speed, I wanted to include it only so that the user knows: this is not the same as the "long press" which was explained previously, and had a completely different function.

A very short solution of just 1-2 words would be most appreciated.

  • I really think it comes down to, there's no way to be as specific as you want to be in 1-2 words. – MikeVaughan Mar 7 '12 at 4:52
  • Is this for computer software? In which case clicking is readily understood."keep clicking until..." If it's not, clicking might be confusing. – Sam Mar 7 '12 at 5:13
  • @Sam: no, it's hardware. – vsz Mar 7 '12 at 5:15
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    It's the 1-2 words that's causing the trouble. Is the restriction because this needs to fit on a label or something? For a manual, I would choose clarity over brevity. Can you tell us what the button actually does? – Sam Mar 7 '12 at 5:19
  • @Sam: Pressing and holding toggles a device to a "selection mode", afterwards pressing/tapping it repeatedly iterates through a list of options, pressing and holding again comfirms and saves the selected option. It's not a virtual button on a screen, but a physical one. – vsz Mar 7 '12 at 5:26


Press the button repeatedly, not continuously.

I agree that using the word 'shortly' is bad idea. To me, it seems to imply that you should hold the button down briefly.

Edit: In light of the edits you made, you might be interested in

Tap the button...


Tap the button repeatedly...

  • I like this. So, maybe "Tap the button repeatedly" would be the best choice? I am unsure of using the user manual of common mp3 players, as it might be full of "engrish". – vsz Mar 7 '12 at 4:54
  • 'Tap the button repeatedly' sounds good to me. And it is grammatically correct. But only you can be sure if it conveys the idea you're going for. – MikeVaughan Mar 7 '12 at 4:56
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    In the different user manuals I've seen to this day which I felt are correct (I'm not a native speacer so I'm not 100% sure), I've never seen "tap". They usually use "press" and "press and hold" for the two different possibilities. My problem was that "press the button until the item of your choice is selected" might imply to press and hold it until it is selected... – vsz Mar 7 '12 at 4:57
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    It might even be worth it to just explicitly say not to hold. "Press repeatedly without holding" sounds pretty good to me... – heathenJesus Mar 7 '12 at 5:05
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    @heathenJesus Yes. Ive thought of this, but I was also trying to stay under 4 words. Though, to me, it just worth breaking that limit to be more precise. Maybe "Tap repeatedly without holding". If you have your heart set on using 'tap'. – MikeVaughan Mar 7 '12 at 5:08

It sounds like you want to say:

Tap the button to step through the selections.

  • And then you can further differentiate by adding "and keep it pressed to choose the right option." – Andrew Leach Mar 7 '12 at 13:02

You can use rapidly because you want the action to be very fast. so, how about: "Press the button multiple times rapidly".


How about:

Press the button quickly several times.

EDIT: In view of what you seem to see from the above example, try:

Press the button several times in rapid succession.
Press the button several times quickly

  • Thanks, sounds good, but I feel it means more like "Hurry, press the button NOW!" – vsz Mar 7 '12 at 4:26

You could say, "A series of short button presses is used to step through the menu".


The term "double-click" is well-understood, and following its pattern you can say "triple-click" and be understood. In an introductory paragraph, say "A double-click is a two-click sequence; a triple-click is a three-click sequence; more clicks at the same rate is a multi-click sequence." Thereafter, where you would have said "Press the button repeatedly to...", instead say "Multi-click to..." or say "Enter a multi-click sequence to...". If the exact number of clicks is known, you might say (eg) "Enter a 5-click sequence to..."; less explicitly, say "Use a 5-click to..." or perhaps "Use a fast 5-click to...". Note, you could instead define fast-click as a fast sequence of clicks and use that term; (eg) "Fast-click until desired station appears."

  • Neither me, nor the user can now how often the button has to be pressed. It's similar to an mp3 player or radio, when we click through the stations until we find something we would like to choose. – vsz Mar 7 '12 at 4:47

How about Punch the button repeatedly? (Punch implies that you don't hold the button down, but punch it and release it.) I also like tap, which was mentioned by others.


How about (for example) "To skip through the stations, press the button several times, briefly and rapidly." Then to address the second case, you could use (for example), "To select a station, press the button and hold."

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