Is there a specific word in English describing black boxes covering confidential data on papers being prepared for public access? Here is an example of such a paper

  • 1
    Setting black marks is a form of censorship.
    – Graffito
    May 5, 2016 at 19:58
  • Note that in electronic form, particularly PDF, it is vital the black or white boxes or whatever replace the data not just cover it, because a moderately skilled reader can remove overlaid boxes and expose the secret data; google 'redaction fail'. May 6, 2016 at 8:38
  • If you want to be humorous, you could use black highlighter. From The Onion: CIA Realizes It's Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years
    – Golden Cuy
    May 6, 2016 at 11:33

4 Answers 4


The word is redacted. Generally speaking, when gov't documents are released to the public, they are heavily redacted.

  1. edit (text) for publication.
  2. censor or obscure (part of a text) for legal or security purposes.

Via https://www.google.com/#q=redacted

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  • 1
    "Redacted" is an adjective that describes the document after text has been obliterated. It's not a word that describes the obliterating marks, so I don't think this answers the question. May 6, 2016 at 2:49
  • 3
    @DavidRicherby redactions?
    – Tom Bowen
    May 6, 2016 at 10:19
  • @Tom.Bowen89 Yes: google.com/…
    – TecBrat
    May 6, 2016 at 13:45

I have heard the objects themselves called censor bars, or censor boxes, but I can't find anything more official than Wikipedia or TV Tropes to corroborate that.


There is no single word that fits your purpose; redaction (n.) is close, but it does not refer specifically to black marks. In general, as in law, it can mean the activity of redacting, or it can mean the resulting visible black mark, white space, cutout, or any kind of visual evidence on the page showing that text was redacted. Where it is necessary to be specific, people use descriptive words such as “black (or white) box”, “black mark”, “blackout”, or “black (or white) rectangle”. These can be used adjectivally to modify redaction and get the term you need:

(1) The driver’s address was concealed; only a black mark (or redaction, or blackout redaction) was visible.

As noted in the Wikipedia page on sanitizing classified information, redaction can be accomplished using “cover-up tape” or “redaction tape”. When these materials are used, you could add a color adjective to get the term you need:

(2) The driver’s address was concealed with black cover-up tape.

As for verbs: to sanitize means to make the document clean (in a figurative sense). To redact means to edit for publication. You might say sanitizing is redacting with a particular purpose. As with redaction, neither of these verbs specifically refer to the use of a black box. For that, common verb phrases are mark out, black out, cover up.

(3) The security officer blacked out (or marked out) the driver’s address.


Try redact.

Also Sanitization. It also contains the word redaction. Both can be used in proper context.

  • 2
    Redact and redaction are words in regular use in the UK. I've never heard sanitise in this context.
    – WS2
    May 5, 2016 at 17:26
  • 1
    @WS2 Not just sanitize, sanitization of data.
    – vickyace
    May 5, 2016 at 17:31
  • @WS2 in the IT field, in the UK, we often speak of 'sanitising data', to mean removal of sensitive elements of that data
    – Marv Mills
    May 6, 2016 at 12:05

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