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Terminology: Menus

Observe the following names and phrases used to describe the various entities used on menus, and the various types of menus that we use.

A menu is a group of the main commands of a program arranged by category such as File, Edit, Format, View and Help. Menus are usually displayed on a menu bar typically located near the top of a window. Menus contain commands. Do not refer to a menu command as a choice or option. Also do not refer to a menu command as a menu item..[...] To describe user interaction with menus and commands, use click.
Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th Edition, page 63.

In content for a general audience, do not qualify the term menu with the adjectives cascading, drop-down, pull-down, pop-up, shortcut or submenu unless the way that the menu works needs to be emphasized as a feature of the product. Shortcut menu is all right to use, although in most cases, you can avoid it. Do not use any of these terms as verbs.
Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th Edition, page 65.


Traditional menu system

This is a "standard" menu as seen in most Microsoft programs and several of our own products.

  1. Menu name
  2. Command
  3. Unavailable command
  4. Submenu

When referring to a specific menu, use lowercase for the word menu, as "the Edit menu". In general, refer to unavailable commands and options as unavailable, not as dimmed or grayed unless you are describing their appearance. In that case, use dimmed, but not grayed or disabled. [...] Do not capitalize the identifier, such as menu or command.
Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th Edition, page 64.

Examples of permitted writing styles

There are several unavailable commands on the Edit menu.

Click the File menu.

On the File menu, click Open.

To open the PDF dialog box, click File → Publish → PDF.

The Publish dialog box is opened by clicking Publish on the File menu.

Not permitted

Do not use the phrases drop-down menu, pull-down menu, context menu and pop-up menu.


The phrase "submenu" is written in one word.

Shortcut menus

A shortcut menu appears when you position the cursor somewhere on the screen and the press the right mouse button. Shortcut menus are normally context sensitive, and provide commands related to your current operation.

When more than one shortcut menu is used in a product, each menu must be identified with a name. This name is normally the same as the view from which the menu was opened.

Examples of permitted writing styles

When you press the right mouse button, a shortcut menu appears.

To open the Colour Scale menu, right-click in the Colour Scale view.

Not permitted

Do not use the phrases context menu or pop-up menu.

Special menus using buttons

Menu example

Some of our products offer a customized graphical user interface, and this interface uses menus with buttons. Some of these buttons open a dialog box. Other buttons provide a dedicated function. This function is then controlled only by the button itself, or by means of a submenu that opens below the button to provide options, commands or additional buttons.

  1. Menu button
  2. Unavailable menu button
  3. Submenu icon
  4. Submenu (with name)
  5. Menu button (different type)

In order to describe these menus and buttons, we adopt the terminology that Microsoft uses for toolbars.

Examples of permitted writing styles

To use the Transmission Pattern functionality, click Transmission Pattern on the Setup menu.

To change the Range, click Range on the Main menu.

The Calibration button is located on the Setup menu.

To open the Calibration dialog box, click Calibration on the Setup menu.

Click the middle of the Language button to open the list of available languages.


We do not write the word button unless it is important to emphasize that it is in fact a button.


Related topics

Standards for writing and grammar rules

  • Microsoft Style Guide, 4th Edition, Microsoft Press, Washington, 2012, ISBN 978-0-7356-4871-5
  • Chicago manual of Style, 16th Edition, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2012, ISBN 978-0-226-10420-1