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Glossary » noun-verb paradigm

noun-verb paradigm

an approach to specifying commands to the computer, also called the select-then-operate paradigm. First an object or objects (representing some data — the nouns) are selected. Then an operation (or commands — the verb) is selected to perform some action on the objects.

The alternative, the verb-noun paradigm, is the approach taken most often by command-line systems. The verb-noun approach corresponds to English commands: “Delete this file.” It also better supports multiple arguments to the command.

The common rationale for noun-verb interaction is that it removes modes — if you select an object, you can easily deselect, change, or extend the selection, whereas with verb-noun, you choose a verb and the system is left stuck waiting for a noun, in a mode. Of course, this is ridiculous since the verb can obviously be changed or deselected just like a noun and the modality problem can occur in both directions.

In the end, noun-verb dialogues are more appropriate when many operations are needed for a single object , and verb-noun dialogues are best when multiple objects need a similar operation performed.