Last night I was working on an article away from home and needed to reference a source I’d left there. Not wanting to lose my pace, I ended the sentence I was working on with a placeholder: “INSERT RESEARCH HERE.” I knew generally what the research was, I just needed to look up the exact figure. Typing in all caps ensured I’d catch the note in proofreading if not before. I did think at the time, though, that if the wrong draft were accidentally published I would be very embarassed.

Tonight I learned two things courtesy of Greenpeace. 1) Other writers use this all caps placeholder technique. 2) Forgetting to take them out does indeed look really, really bad.

[Via Radley.]



  1. Oh, I did this all the time as an undergrad. “INSERT NUMBERS HERE,” “SOME WORD,” or “FIND SOURCE OF QUOTE.” Ugh, I cannot imagine how embarrassed I’d be if something I’d written like that had been published.

  2. That is hilarious. I think everybody does it, but a) not so amusingly and b) not so “wow, this mistake really undermines our cause and makes us sound crazy”.

    Side note: whenever I make such notes to myself (I do it in commented computer code a lot these days) I always type “???” and then I always remember to do a search of a document to make sure all triplet question marks have been removed. Generally more reliable, in my opinion, as long as you get in the habit of running a quick find.

  3. i always use a big blank line like this: _________________________ because i’m more likely to see it and remember it vs. the capital letters which i sometimes skim right over

  4. For a class at Vandy I once turned in a paper that had the following quote: “At times globalization requires more discourse than it receives. [CITE THAT REALLY DENSE ARTICLE FROM CLASS]”

    The professor, to her credit, crossed out the sentence and inserted the name of the article for me, with a smiley face, and didn’t dock me any points on it.

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