I have a website and there's an online form to be filled out by people who visit the site. I want to make sure that a certain person lacks a criminal record (that he hasn't one). So I put this: Lack of a criminal record YES NO If a person chooses YES (default) then it means that he has no criminal record and if he chooses NO, then it means that he has one. Correct? Also the reason why I'm asking is because at first I put it like this: Clean criminal record YES NO Then I thought that it's probably wrong. Because in this case even if a person chooses YES, it would mean that a person had a criminal record once, but not anymore. Though it's more of a legal question maybe.

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    Please be careful when asking questions on ELL. Questions like "Best way to..." are generally "primarily opinion-based" (off-topic) and might be closed. – Em. Sep 12 '16 at 7:17
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    Have you ever been convicted of a felony? "Clean criminal record?" is asking for trouble, although it is perfectly idiomatic. It's argot that has made its way into the vernacular. The rap sheet was "clean", i.e. empty. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 12 '16 at 11:12
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    I think the issue is solved more easily if you rephrase the form. Why would you ask someone if they have a a lack of something? Why not just ask "Do you have a criminal record?" That's much less easily confused. – stangdon Sep 12 '16 at 14:19
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    Or, can you get a copy of your police records (police certificate)? – Lucian Sava Sep 12 '16 at 16:59
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    Surely there's something on UX stackexchange for this kind of thing? – John Feltz Nov 15 '16 at 21:52

It is a legal question, but there's a more subtle issue here:

I know you want the answer to be "I don't have a criminal record", but you need to ask the opposite:

Do you have a criminal record?

This is because the opposite question can leave "wiggle room" for the answerer, just like you feared. They could say all sorts of things (after the fact) if you try to be "nice" in the way you ask the question.

And whatever you do, do NOT have a default answer! If you do, and someone submits "No", then they can complain that the website answered the question for them. You need them to positively click either "Yes" or "No".

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