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I am trying to figure out which term to use when writing a "help text" or giving messages to the user on an app.

Should I say:

  • tap the button OR
  • tap on the button

  • tap the item OR

  • tap on the item

  • tap the word OR

  • tap on the word
5

Either is acceptable. The first, however, is simpler; in this case, the 'on' is understood, and therefore redundant. Someone would normally tap on an icon, word, link, etc., unless there was a reason they would expect to be tapping above, or below, or beside it. In this case, since a tap of an element is normally understood to be a tap on the element, the extra word is redundant.

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  • 2
    Bear in mind that to tap can also signify either to draw liquid from or to exploit a resource . So to tap someone's head and to tap someone's brains are not the same thing. Nor are tapping a barrel and tapping on a barrel. google.com/… – Ronald Sole Aug 29 '18 at 16:01
  • True. Context here, though, is computing/app development. In that context, tap/tap on would be understood identically. – JCAT606 Aug 29 '18 at 17:56
  • Agreed that it is probably obvious, but it's still worth pointing out. Someone could be working on a beer-themed lifestyle app where "tap the barrel" might be ambiguous to some of the target audience. – GrandOpener Aug 29 '18 at 20:20
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All of the above options are fine - omitting 'on' is more concise though.

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