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 '16 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'. – dave_thompson_085 May 6 '16 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 – Andrew Grimm May 6 '16 at 11:33

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

enter image description here

  • 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. – David Richerby May 6 '16 at 2:49
  • 3
    @DavidRicherby redactions? – Tom.Bowen89 May 6 '16 at 10:19
  • @Tom.Bowen89 Yes: google.com/… – TecBrat May 6 '16 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 '16 at 17:26
  • 1
    @WS2 Not just sanitize, sanitization of data. – vickyace May 5 '16 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 '16 at 12:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.