If I have a template (say a generic letter) that is filled in with various pieces of data (say, the name of the addressee), what is a general term for those pieces of data?

For example:

Dear {firstname},
This is just a friendly reminder that the book {booktitle} will be due on {duedate}.
Thank you.

What would I refer to {firstname}, {booktitle} and {duedate} as?

  • 1
    Do you mean the tokens themselves (then the word is placeholders), or the actual data they are replaced with?
    – RegDwigнt
    Jul 4, 2012 at 20:52
  • Periferically related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/70975/…
    – user19148
    Jul 4, 2012 at 21:01
  • 3
    I'm new here. Is trolling with mispledding a typical practice in this froup?
    – DWin
    Jul 4, 2012 at 21:17
  • 1
    @DWin - General questions can be asked in chat, where you will have all the answers you are searching for.
    – user19148
    Jul 4, 2012 at 21:33

6 Answers 6


You could refer to {firstname}, {booktitle} and {duedate} as placeholders or variables.

  • Placeholders is probably the closest to what I'm looking for. Variables is too generic since I'm using this in a computer program, but otherwise would work well.
    – devios1
    Jul 4, 2012 at 20:59

Since you're obviously looking for an abstract term I would suggest parameter.


{firstname}, etc. would be 'fieldnames' and their instantiations might be "values" or "field-values". The correct answer will depend on the context and as presented the context is apparently some sort of artificial language or text macro processor. The term 'form field' is more be correct in the context of an MS Word template. Arguably, this question is not really about English at all.

  • @tenfour; I have fired back at my detractors.
    – DWin
    Jul 4, 2012 at 23:46
  • I think placeholder is more suitable for general use than [form] field[name] (which smacks of geek/programmer terminology to me). But I don't see this answer is wrong enough to justify a downvote. Jul 5, 2012 at 0:45
  • I would insist on writing "field names" in two words. This question is 100% about English, since we are looking for a specific English term! Jul 5, 2012 at 8:24

When I was a child, I was asked to fill in the blanks on English class execises. I've seen it called fields too (though this reminds most of spreadsheet fields) and placeholders.


"Field names" is the term used in the Microsoft line of products for this kind of placeholder. The examples you posted in {brackets} are "field codes".

Quoting from a Microsoft help page for Office 2007:

When you view a field code in your document, the syntax looks like this:

{ FIELD NAME Properties Optional switches }

  • FIELD NAME This is the name that appears in the list of field names in the Field dialog box.
  • Properties These are any instructions or variables that are used in a particular field. Not all fields have parameters, and in some fields, parameters are optional instead of required.
  • Optional switches These are any optional settings that are available for a particular field. Not all fields have switches available, other than those that govern the formatting of the field results.

I hope this helps.

In general, the Microsoft language and terminology site can be very helpful to find IT-related English words, especially if you are not a native speaker of English. Link: http://www.microsoft.com/Language/en-US/Terminology.aspx


Nomenclature varies, but it is common to refer to the entire process as a mail merge, and to call the placeholders in the document variables. The values used by the merge process are taken from fields or columns (depending on the type of database) which are bound to the variables.

See for example “Writer/Mail Merge” at LibreOffice Help.

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