Definition and Use of Strikethrough

The word 'useful' heavily underscored in printed document
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A strikethrough is a horizontal line drawn through text, traditionally used to indicate the deletion of an error or the removal of text in a draft. See also:

Recently, especially in online writing, the strikethrough has also been used as a metadiscursive device (see observations below). See also:

Examples and Observations

  • "For [Charles] Dickens, the strikethrough—a visible line drawn through a word or sentence--was a way to erase a word from the reader’s eye (and indeed the stricken sections from his manuscripts didn’t appear in the printed versions of his books).

    "But in Internet culture, the strikethrough has already taken on an ironic function, as a ham-fisted way of having it both ways in type a witty way of simultaneously commenting on your prose as you create it.

    "Writers on the Internet don’t know how good they have it. They can only play around so casually with their own 'corrections' because they are so easy to make. (If you were truly worried about conveying basic meaning unprecedented insights about communication, you wouldn’t mess around with editing tools.)

    "This facility in writing, rewriting and overwriting is seemingly a breakthrough unique to the Internet Age, although the strike-through itself dates back to at least medieval manuscripts."
    (Noam Cohen, "Crossing Out, for Emphasis." The New York Times, July 23, 2007)
  • "Then there’s Judd Apatow, who believes [Ricky] Gervais’s humor is comparable to that unmatched comic legend meanie old lady Joan Rivers. Nice put-down, mean Mr. Apatow."
    (Louis Virtel, "Has Ricky Gervais Officially Doomed Us for the Safest Oscars Ever?" Movie Line, Jan. 17, 2011)
  • "The so-called 'strikethrough' mode of type has come into its own as a standard device in opinion journalism—even in print.

    "The immediacy of blogging is supposed to make up for roughness about the edges of the prose, and sometimes of the facts, too. But conscientious bloggers often update their posts, especially as new light is shed on the events they refer to.

    "Such updates appear right there with the original text, unlike the corrections of a daily newspaper. So the convention has developed of using strike through mode--a thin horizontal line through the type. It clearly signals what is struck but equally clearly leaves it visible, unlike the heavy blacking out of, say, redacted official transcripts ...

    "The paradox is that crossing something out highlights it. The ancient Greek rhetoricians had a whole vocabulary of terms to refer to different forms of 'mentioning by not mentioning.'

    "This intentional use of strikethrough is not to be confused with its use as an editing tool--a way for an editor to mark, 'Here's what I'd take out, and here's some language I'd tuck in.'"
    (Ruth Walker, "Highlight Your Errors: The Paradox of the 'Strike Through' Mode." The Christian Science Monitor, July 9, 2010)

    Also Known As: strike out

    Alternate Spellings: strike through, strike-through