Mark Placeholder Text in Word So You Don't Embarrass Yourself

Last Updated Feb 22, 2010 12:11 AM EST

Some years ago, through a series of editing oversights, a friend of mine accidentally published some placeholder text in a national magazine. He had written the phrase "something something something" in an article that wasn't complete, and that's how it actually ran.

That's incredibly embarrassing, whether you're writing for a national audience or just filing a report for your boss. And the reality is that we are all vulnerable, since it's inevitable that placeholders creep into our writing occasionally. Some people use the old writer trick of marking placeholder text with the letters "TK" (which stands for "to come"). Other folks insert the word "zebra" on the assumption that it's an uncommon word, and the letter Z makes it jump off the page when you're reviewing it.

Both are reasonable systems, but highly fragile and subject to error. I've got a tip that will ensure you never accidentally hand off an uncompleted Word document again with whatever placeholder text you rely on.

Just use Word's AutoCorrect feature to highlight placeholder text in a way that's impossible to miss.

Suppose that you always write "TK" to indicate something you need to go back and fix later. In that case, select TK, change the text to red and highlight it in yellow. Then make sure that the formatted TK is selected, and copy it to the clipboard.

Now open Word Options, click the Proofing tab, and click AutoCorrect Options. You'll see TK in the With field. Click the Formatted text option, and you'll see the yellow-and-red version of TK appear. Paste (or type) TK into the Replace field, click OK and you're done.

Now, whenever you type TK, it'll automatically highlight and bold for you, making it virtually impossible to miss when you later review your document.


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