For example say I have this sentence:

The following sentence uses ________: You can find the program in [DOWNLOAD_DIRECTORY] where [DOWNLOAD_DIRECTORY] is your default download directory.

What is is called when I used something like [DOWNLOAD_DIRECTORY]?

What would I put in the blank?

Normally I would say a Macro, but is this correct?


You might consider the word placeholder, specifically definition 2 as provided by Collins Dictionary.com:

a section of text that is placed in a document, etc temporarily until the final text is inserted there at a later stage

In the specific context of computing, another candidate might be variable:

a named unit of storage that can be changed to any of a set of specified values during execution of a program

  • 1
    It would be more in the context of regular text, so IMO using variable would be inappropriate. Would placeholder be appropriate if the placeholders were permanent? – Soapy Mar 2 '15 at 15:49
  • @Soapy yes, I'd consider it entirely appropriate. In the specific case of your example above, they'd always remain in the quoted text, as they'd presumably be filled in when a copy of the documentation was compiled. In this scenario they could very usefully be termed as 'placeholders'. – 568ml Mar 2 '15 at 15:52
  • The document would not be compiled, the sentence I posted would be used in a readme or some other instructional document. – Soapy Mar 2 '15 at 16:00
  • @Soapy I see, but even in that case they could still be called 'placeholders'. They'd be permanent in the sense that they would always be inscribed in the actual text, but the reader would mentally replace the placeholders with the relevant download directory. – 568ml Mar 3 '15 at 8:06

One common name for that is placeholder.

  • -_- How could I forget that... – Soapy Mar 2 '15 at 15:43

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