This question is inspired by comments from this post.

From what I understand, a strikethrough can act as an epanorthosis, but not the other way around. A brief explanation of my perspective is:

An epanorthosis is completely dependent upon the preceding statement, acting as to modify/correct what was just stated. And, it could be that the formerly stated expression was intentionally misspoken (Ex.2).


Yeah, that's fine - no, great!


Yeah, I know of Sigmund Fraud - I mean, Freud.

Conversely, I believe a strikethrough (can) exist completely independent from that of its associated word/phrase. The content of the strikethrough could be directly related to its associated phrase, or, not at all. Also, since the strikethrough comes before its association, the reader is forced to create a second train of thought (in a way, temporarily put that strikethrough in the back of their mind, since they see it's stricken) when going into the upcoming statement(s). And, as the OP of the other post states, people on the Internet use this all the time to introduce comedy, wit, etc.


Earlier today I went to the grocery store and I just realized I forgot pickles saw my best friend from high school.

In that example, although the strikethrough is related to some other element within the sentence, by no means does it make any attempt to modify or correct.

Given all of this, what's the difference (if any) between the usage of a strikethrough and of an epanorthosis? Is my current distinction between the two accurate? Any kind of insight is appreciated.

  • 2
    It seems one difference is that strikethrough is a written only way to use an epanorthosis "epanorthize?" You don't hear anyone orally stating "I went to the grocery store and I just realized I forgot pickles - strikethrough that - I saw my best friend." Although, I may start saying that now!
    – slasky
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 22:35
  • 3
    @petryuno1 But you do hear "I went to the grocery store and I just realized I forgot pickles - scratch that - I saw my best friend." ....(At least in the U.S.)
    – Adam
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 22:51
  • @Adam Good point! You do hear that.
    – slasky
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 22:52
  • 1
    It seems to me that epanorthosis is one way that strike-throughs are used (and conversely, strike-throughs are one way to frame epanorthosis.) Neither is a subset of the other, but there is an overlap - specifically when strikethroughs are used to intentionally rephrase to intensify or de-intensify an expression while leaving a hint of the original feeling behind.
    – Adam
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 23:16

1 Answer 1


I agree with your assessment. As you and Adam suggested, there is some overlap between the way a strikethrough is used and epanorthosis. But I think there are significant differences, so I would not apply the term "epanorthosis" as a general label for the intentional use of the strikethrough, as suggested by comments to the original post referenced.

1) First of all, here are the ways in which epanorthosis is used:

a) To make a legitimate, honest correction or amendment to something that was stated previously. It is obviously used in verbal communication, and is also used in writing when depicting speech or stream of consciousness.

b) To pretend to make a correction for humorous effect or deliberate exaggeration. "Sigmund Fraud--I mean, Freud" is an example of this. So is something like "millions--no, billions!"

A strikethrough can also be used for humorous effect, as in 1b above. However, I would argue that it can't quite be used as in 1a above. Online and in printed documents, if the writer can go back to the text to apply the strikethrough effect, they can also go back and delete it altogether. So no one can claim that they were making a legitimate correction. Nor is a strikethrough a good way to imitate conversation or stream of consciousness, because it inherently implies that the writer is able to either modify what's been said after the fact, or correct it before it happens by setting the font. Obviously neither one is available for spontaneous speech or thought.

A strikethrough can be used for legitimate correction in a written document, when the writer doesn't intend to make a clean copy, but in that case it's really used as editing markup, and thus is not part of the text itself. It's truly not intended to be read, and while someone may still read it, what they're reading is more of a meta-text--traces of the process that led to the final version of the actual text. Online, the strikethrough font can also be used to display document edits, and in this case it's also only part of a meta-text--the documentation of the revisions made in past versions to form the current text. But it's not the same as the deliberate, textual use of the strikethrough. Even the syntax of HTML5 makes this distinction: there is a different tag for the strikethrough effect ("s") and the effect intended for document edits ("del"), even though both are usually rendered by the strikethrough font (https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/HTML/Element/s). (But see 1006a's comments below for a more nuanced consideration of interactive sites.)

2) So here are the ways in which a strikethrough can be used:

a) as editing markup, described above.

b) as epanorthosis: as in "Sigmund Fraud Freud," or "millions billions." The type of comedic effect is slightly different here than in the case of a written correction, because the reader is given the "punchline" right away, as you pointed out. The dramatic effect is also lessened for the same reason. But it's still the same general technique.

c) to create an internal monologue/inner voice effect alongside the speaker's 'official' voice, as in your example: "I went to the store and I just realized I forgot pickles saw my friend." You already described in your question the reason why this font is so effective for this effect: "the reader is forced to create a second train of thought."

d) as part of a paralipsis: "Stating and drawing attention to something in the very act of pretending to pass it over" (http://rhetoric.byu.edu/Figures/P/paralipsis.htm). For example: "Jane is a very dedicated employee and I won't say anything bad about her like the fact that she steals." This example would be a paralipsis even without the strikethrough, but the font emphasizes the effect. Here is an example where the paralipsis relies entirely on the strikethrough: "Jane likes her five-finger employee discount." If the strikethrough wasn't there, the sentence would just be an outright criticism instead of an ironic jab.

c) signaling allofunctional implicature: when a sentence has a different function than the one implied by its grammar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentence_function#Allofunctional_implicature). For example: "let's take all the artificial ingredients out of twinkies: chemical1, chemical2, chemical3, chemical4, chemical5." Here, by using visual effect, the markup changes the sentence from imperative to declarative ("there is nothing but artificial ingredients"). Another example is "Does anyone like this?" The sentence is changed from interrogative to declarative.

d) as typographic emphasis for something bad or deprecated (anti-emphasis?). For example: "do this, not that."

e) as sarcastic negation: For example: "this is so much fun." The strikethrough negates the statement, but not in the same way as saying "This is not fun."

f) to signal ambivalence or passive-aggressiveness. For example: "I hate you." Obviously if the writer didn't mean it, or truly didn't want it to be known, they would have erased it altogether. But if they mean to be aggressive, why cross it out?

And there may be other uses as well, of which I'm not aware.

So the concept of epanorthosis and strikethrough usage intersect only in cases 1b and 2b above. They are neither equal nor subsets of each other. One of the things that a strikethrough can be used for is one type of epanorthosis.

  • 1
    Very nice analysis. I would quibble slightly that I have occasionally seen strikethrough used for genuine correction online, generally when the writer wants to be upfront about having made an error originally (it shows up in SE answers sometimes in response to corrections in comments). It feels to me a bit like the verbal interjection "I tell a lie".
    – 1006a
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 18:44
  • Hmm, you make a VERY good point. Some texts, like SE, are naturally interactive and self-referential. Users edit each other and themselves in response to or expectation of feedback... But is it meant to be interpreted as an immediate correction, or one made after some time? Do you think it would be epanorthosis in this case, if someone reflects on a statement and then corrects it 10 min later? The conversational equivalent "I tell a lie" usually happens when the person is pretty deep into their shpeel and have to correct something prior. Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 18:50
  • 2
    It's an interesting question. From the writer's point of view, it's a correction that takes place quite a bit later than the original error, so quite different from traditional epanorthosis. But from the reader's point of view (at least the readers who come across the text post-correction), it functions very much like epanorthosis: they are exposed to the mistake, and then are immediately given the correction. I probably wouldn't call it epanorthosis, but it's an interesting example of how traditional ways of thinking about communication may need to stretch and change in the internet era.
    – 1006a
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 19:29
  • @1006a I really like your point. Thanks for the feedback! I would amend my answer (using strikethrough of course ;7 ) but I'm not sure how to correlate author strikethrough edits with reviewer edits with transparent site-level edits... I think I would get bogged down trying to analyze the levels of meta. I think I'll just reference your comment and leave it at that. I might start using strikethrough edits myself, though. It's a good idea. Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 19:59
  • @filistinist Thank you for such a detailed and wholesome response. :) It would seem that there are no significantly, or really even slightly, conflicting arguments from other users, so I will accept this answer. Thanks again!
    – user251621
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 2:14

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