Tutorial :Proper language to use in form field labels



Question:

I wish to use the following sentence as the comment on a form field. I have already come up with a short-form label for the field. This text is meant to explain the field in a bit more detail:

The country [where] you come from.

The question is: is this "where" needed there, can be used there (optional) or cannot be used there (error).

As English is not my mother language, sometimes these things come up. Please don't be hard on me.

EDIT: I'm somewhat overwhelmed by the answers and appearing complexity of the issue. Yes, I have an input field and I wish to write a label to it. We all know the basic phrases like "I come from Australia" - "Where do you come from?". Cannot it be turned around in the form like "The country you come from"?

And if the following would be correct: "The country I live in"? Or I may only put the preposition to the end if it's not an independent clause but a subordinate one (terms may not be correct, forgot them): I've returned to the country I live in.


Solution:1

I have basically two groups of input fields, the one for the current user location and the other for his original place. So I put two labels: "The country you live in" and "The country you come from".

I would go with:

Country of residence: _____________  Country of birth:     _____________  

Putting "Country" first makes it obvious what kind of information should go in the field, and the words "of residence" and "of birth" are commonly used in forms.

I prefer "of birth" to "of origin", since "origin" can be misinterpreted. If someone was born in China, moved to Chile, and then moved to Canada before filling out this form, they may be tempted to answer "Chile" for country of origin, since that was the most recent country in which they lived. Using "Country of birth" makes it quite explicit.

Note: The language used to label form fields is not usually made up of complete sentences. A full sentence might look like:

In which country do you currently live? ______________  In which country were you born?         ______________  

But this can make your forms unnecessarily cluttered. When someone is filling out a form, they are attempting to recall distinct, individual blurbs of information, and they are (most likely) intent on getting this boring task done as quickly as possible. A user in that frame of mind does not want to read an entire essay just to figure out what they should enter into a given field. For that reason, form labels should be succinct and to the point, and should avoid being vague in any way.

edit in response to a new comment:

I have both short label before the textbox and the elaborated comment next to it. No problem writing the short version, it's the long one that gets me confused

If it is the long version (the comment) you are trying to decide on, I would go with the full sentence options that I described above. They would make terrible short form labels, but they would work quite well as comments or as roll-over tool tips.

An alternative instruction-style format would be:

Enter the name of the country in which you currently live  Enter the name of the country in which you were born  


Solution:2

Formally it would be "the city from which you came", "the city whence you came" (except that 'whence' is definitely archaic), "your native city", or perhaps "your city of origin" or "original city".

Colloquially, in a sentence I would say "The city you came from" instead of "The city where you came from". If I were writing it though, e.g. on a form to label an input text field, then "The city where you came from" might be better because it's a little less ambiguous.

Note that neither is entirely grammatical though, because they're not complete sentences: they're missing a subject and a verb.


Solution:3

The city from which you came.

"From" is a preposition. It's a grammatical error to end a sentence with a preposition.

However, used in the context of an input form, "[City or Country] of Origin" would be more suitable.


Solution:4

If this is a form field in an application (to make it vaguely programming related :-) ), "Country of origin" seems to me more natural.


Solution:5

Where is required for written English (UK), but would commonly be dropped in spoken (colloquial) English.


Solution:6

I believe the way you have it is correct - "where" is optional.


Solution:7

Erm. Isn't it "The city THAT you come from?" as in "The city that you originate from". The other way is practically an innuendo. [This may be my tenuous grasp of english afforded by being a Mancunian.]


Solution:8

The complete form would be The city from which you come. As it's a relative clause with the pronoun as its object, you can leave it out. ("contact clause")


Solution:9

In spoken US English, it's fine with or without where -- but I wouldn't use either on a website. Here's why:

I am a native US English speaker. I would only say I come from America if I was traveling in another country, or if I had moved to another country and was THERE ALREADY. I would never say it while I was in America.

So the saying I come from America implies that you and I are somewhere OTHER than America.

So if you say on your website, The country [where] you come from, it would imply that your visitors are AWAY from their home country, or that your visitors have MOVED away from their original country.

I know it's subtle, but if you ask it online, it will sound slightly strange and "off".


Instead, ask exactly what you want to know. If you want to know where they live right now, say one of the following:

  1. Your country of residence
  2. The country where you live
  3. The country you live in (Yes, in actual practical US English, the in can go at the end.)

If you want to know the country where people consider themselves a native, then say The country you consider yourself a native of. The word native means different things to different people, though. Similarly, you could say Your home country, but again, home means different things to different people.

Or if your visitors truly HAVE come from a different country and ARE NOW in a new country, say The country you came from. (Note I said CAME and not COME.) You could also say Your country of origin but that sounds robotic and bureaucratic.

I know you probably already deployed your form, but I hope this will bring you some more clarity.


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