6

We refer to a document whose title is blank as "untitled".

Similarly, how do we refer — in one word — to a document which has a title but there is no content?

I searched dictionaries, but the word "uncontented" has different meanings.

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    What’s wrong with Empty?
    – k1eran
    Oct 6, 2019 at 9:50
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    In English it is "What do you call?", never "How do you call?" I have edited your title. ("How do you say" is ok.)
    – David
    Oct 6, 2019 at 10:10
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    @k1eran well, 'empty' would be okay. Oct 6, 2019 at 10:46
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    It's called a blank sheet of paper. If you are using the word document when you should be using computer file, then you should ask on a computer SE.
    – tchrist
    Oct 7, 2019 at 11:15
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    regarding 'untitled:' 'un' = not, 'titled' = 'given a title' - that is to say, 'untitled' means 'no title has been given.' it doesn't address the contents of the document itself. When you open a new document, it is empty, has no content, and coincidentally has also not yet been titled. Oct 7, 2019 at 17:32

6 Answers 6

48

A document without content is empty:

[Merriam-Webster]
1 a : containing nothing
// empty shelves


Many software applications make use of the phrase empty document:

From an Oracle user's guide:

CREATE AN EMPTY DOCUMENT …

1. From the File menu, click New > Empty Document. The Create Document window opens.

From an Informatica KB:

ERROR: "Failed to create empty document" while opening PowerCenter client tools …

Launching any of PowerCenter client tools gives a pop-up error "failed to create empty document".
This can happen for any version.

From documentation for CS Professional Suite:

Error: Failed to Create Empty Document error …

You may see this error message when you open FileCabinet CS.

From documentation for Statistica:

Error: Failed to create empty document …

This article details troubleshooting steps when error message 'Failed to create empty document' appears while using Statistica

From documentation for CimEdit:

ERROR: "Failed to Create Empty Document" is Generated when CimEdit is Launched …

CIMPLICITY’s ‘CimEdit’ can fail to open and generates a dialog with an error message "Failed to create Empty Document”. It was found that deleting the windows user account and recreating this user appeared to resolve the issue. However, deleting an entire windows user profile is unpractical in most user environments, so an alternative solution was created.


There is even a Unicode character (U+1F5CB) that's named "EMPTY DOCUMENT." It's represented by the symbol for a piece of paper.

I can't get the Unicode version to reproduce, but the HTML entity equivalent does work:

🗋       🗋

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    However, if you put that Unicode character in an empty document, the document ceases to be empty (just as {Ø}, the set containing the empty set as an element, is not itself empty, because it has one element). Oct 7, 2019 at 20:29
11

Blank means the document has zero non-whitespace characters, whereas empty is more specific and means means zero characters.

This answer is based on computer science terminology.

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    I had lots of empty pages in my writing pad, then my friend scribbled a bunch of whitespace characters on them as a prank. They still look exactly the same, but I know they're merely blank, not empty...
    – user1635
    Oct 7, 2019 at 20:15
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    That's just how a random software library chose to use those terms. It's not a relevant answer to this question. Oct 7, 2019 at 20:26
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    @k1eran I think what Justin is saying and what Rahul is alluding to is that this question bears no mention of computers, and when it comes to physical documents rather than digital, there is no distinction between blank and empty.
    – PC Luddite
    Oct 8, 2019 at 4:25
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    @PCLuddite Okay, that's a fair point. Though to be devil's advocate: the question did not mention paper either. When I hear "document" the first thing that comes t my mind is a Microsoft Word document rather than a paper document. I think the question needs clarification.
    – k1eran
    Oct 8, 2019 at 9:32
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    @PCLuddite correct. And I was making a more general point that the documentation for a software library is an authority on that library and its semantics, not the the English language and its semantics. Oct 8, 2019 at 20:22
4

A document is a piece of written, printed, or electronic matter that has a content, provides information. So a document without content is not really a document. A template can have a title, but no content. You can then easily create a new document based on that template.

A document has no title. A document had a title, but its contents were blank.

4
  • Can you show why you feel a document cannot be blank? Maybe link to a definition or something. I don't think you're 100% wrong here, but, blank documents are things that computer programs generate all the time.
    – David M
    Oct 6, 2019 at 22:14
  • A document has a lifetime. It always begins life without content. Thus, for a non-zero amount of time, every document is empty. Oct 7, 2019 at 12:12
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    That's only because these days it's a type of file. It's not a document until it "is a written, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought." - The OP is either confusing file name with title, or they fail to understand that a title is content. - It's either a document (either kind) or it's not, +1.
    – Mazura
    Oct 8, 2019 at 0:18
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    The etiology of the word 'document' supports the contention that a document is not a document without content. The word derives from an 18th Century term meaning 'written or printed paper that provides proof or evidence'. The fact that something is documented is what makes the document a document.
    – Jay Moore
    Oct 8, 2019 at 10:00
1

The word contentless appears in some dictionaries, and the second meaning is without content. This is an unusual word, and the second meaning is somewhat obscure. It's also ambiguous as to whether the content is omitted, or present but empty.

A better choice would be a two word phrase: "without content" or "content free".

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    When I use "content-free" I rarely mean it literally; I'm generally talking about documents with plenty of words but no useful information. For example, marketing materials presented as technical documentation may have no useful details about actually using the product. Oct 6, 2019 at 21:33
  • Good point. Your usage is widespread. Oct 7, 2019 at 10:11
-1

From a Herman cartoon in the paper years ago. . . Man standing at the counter at the booksstore complaining to the clerk, "This book I bought, 'There's one born every minute!' There is nothing but blank pages!"

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  • Blank has already been suggested. Oct 8, 2019 at 4:51
-2

A peace treaty that merely restores the status quo ante bellum is a white peace. That is, the parties signed a document empty of terms. This expression doesn't seem to be in the dictionary, but a check with Google Ngrams shows that it peaked at the end of World War I. It’s been given a new lease on life today largely because of strategy video games made by Paradox, in which White Peace is the name of a game mechanic. (At some points in between, it’s been used poetically to mean a romantic or innocent peace.)

Another kind of empty document is a blank check or carte blanche. This is an signed legal document obliging one party to pay whatever amount the other party fills in later. Metaphorically, it could be any promise to back another person up unconditionally.

A signed, undated letter of resignation is sometimes called a blank letter. Some companies make new employees sign these if it would be difficult to officially fire them. Politicians in some countries have made legislators and ministers do the same.

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    An interesting collection of terms, but not an answer to this question, in my opinion.
    – Roger
    Oct 7, 2019 at 14:28

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