What is the proper English term for placeholder messages that you find in software, in the following format:

  • "No Search Results"
  • "No Message Selected"
  • "Unable to Connect"
  • "Nothing to Show"

These messages are replaced by content when the content becomes available to show. These informational messages act like titles that may or may not have additional more explanatory text underneath - hence the title-case.

These aren't sentences, are they phrases, fragments, etc?

  • I think they're usually just called messages. I don't know if there's a common linguistic category.
    – Barmar
    Jan 5, 2015 at 22:38
  • 3
    I wouldn't refer to this as placeholder text. This text conveys a specific piece of information. A placeholder is something that indicates where text will go without conveying any actual information (Lorem Ipsum dolor sit amet) Jan 5, 2015 at 22:43
  • @DaveMagner True. Although this text is only visible where there is no content to show, and it will be replaced with content when it does become available. I'm not sure how else to classify it, thus this question was born.
    – Jordan H
    Jan 5, 2015 at 22:45
  • Temporary text, perhaps? Though I've seen some of the messages you listed in mature software programs, along with many other messages of the same style.
    – Chrisuu
    Jan 5, 2015 at 22:51
  • After 2 years of playing around with ruby and javascript, I would just call such text a 'default message'
    – dwilbank
    Jan 5, 2015 at 23:14

3 Answers 3


The term you're looking for is empty states.

It's a messages that indicates there could be something here, but, for whatever reason, right now there isn't anything.


They can be termed status messages.

  • Yes. Or user messages.
    – dangph
    Jan 6, 2015 at 4:54
  • That works to classify them into a group, but I'm actually after the technical English term for the formation of the words, if there is one. It's not a full sentence, is it just a generic phrase - seems shorter than a phrase?
    – Jordan H
    Jan 6, 2015 at 6:06
  • Message, alert, update, response; the term message seems applicable. There's also 'dialogue' - I think where such communications are prompted on computer screens, they appear as pop-up 'dialogue boxes', and contain 'status messages'.
    – user104169
    Jan 6, 2015 at 6:22

They are sentences in most cases, only very brief and tersely constructed (Hi! is a sentence; Site Not Found is, too.)

However, some may be just a phrase or even a string/text that can serve the purpose though they may not independently convey complete meaning.

"These messages are replaced by content when the content becomes available to show." – Possible, though that does not mean the message is a placeholder or dummy or that it's not a sentence. It serves a purpose until more detailed/specific information can be provided to the user.

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