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11:24am on Sunday, 28th March, 2010:



Whenever I'm writing something on a computer — program, presentation, article, screenplay, novel, forum posting, whatever — and need a marker, I use ///. I just type three slashes, and to me this means "come back here before you're done". I'll sometimes use it as a you-are-here (when I'm going elsewhere in a document and want to be able to return to where I was quickly), sometimes as a placeholder (fill in the details later) and sometimes as a needs-further-work (I may write "///laser" to mean "I want another word here that's better than laser but if I stopped to think of it I'd lose my thread", say). This is a very useful habit, I've found, which is why it extends to all my writings from its programming origins (// being the BCPL "comment to end of line" token, so /// being my "look for this comment" extension).

The use of /// is perhaps unusual, but the concept of a placeholder certainly isn't. Lots of people do it. Sometimes, though, they don't look through and change them, an example of which in today's Observer prompted me to write this blog on the subject:

Really, how hard would it be for newspaper software to trap uses of ??? in the text so that it popped up an "are you sure" message prior to accepting it for printing?

(Hmm, maybe I'll spend the next couple of minutes making QBlog do that for ///...).

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).