When and How to Use Strikethrough

Studio shot of pencil crossing out the word errors from piece of paper

Daniel Grill/Getty Images

A strikethrough is a horizontal line drawn through text, used to indicate the deletion of an error or the removal of text in a draft. If you're a writer and your work is being edited or proofed professionally on paper, you will likely be helped by understanding common revision and editing symbols and abbreviations.

"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," noted author Noam Cohen in ​The New York Times.

 "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." ("Crossing Out, for Emphasis." The New York Times, July 23, 2007.) 

This type of usage is called a metadiscursive device, through which you show that you're using intentional phrasing for effect in the following ways:

  • Apophasis: where the text says what it claims to deny
  • Irony: where the opposite of what is said comes through
  • Paralepsis: where the text emphasizes something by claiming to give it a scant mention
  • Corrections to a news story that aim to show the original information, left for transparency or to show how the facts have changed since the story was first reported

Author Ruth Walker noted in The Christian Science Monitor, "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.'" ("Highlight Your Errors: The Paradox of the 'Strike Through' Mode." July 9, 2010.)

How to Create Strikethroughs

Not all fonts and online text fields support strikethrough text, but where you can use it, it helps to know what to type or click or how or where to locate it on a menu.

In BBCode

BBcode (bulletin board code) is a simple formatting code often allowed in internet forums, message boards, blogs, and the like that allows users to apply a simple style to text.

It looks similar to HTML  but uses square brackets instead of greater than and lesser than symbols. Strikethrough is noted with [s] around struck-through text [/s].

In Markdown

Markdown — a popular plain-text format — doesn't directly support shortcuts for strikethroughs, although some variants use a tilde or a double-tilde before and after a passage to render it as such. Github-flavored Markdown, for example, follows this convention. 

In HTML

The tags for HTML formatting of strikethrough have been < strike > and < /strike > (without the spaces). However, this tag is obsolete, so there is no guarantee that it will remain working on your web pages in all browsers. Mozilla recommends not using it.

Microsoft Word for Mac (Office 365): Use Key Commands or Create a Shortcut

Word for Mac already has a keyboard shortcut for strikethrough. You just have to hit Command+Shift+X to strike out text. If you want a keyboard command for a double strikethrough, you will have to create one, as there isn't one by default for this formatting effect.

  1. To create a keyboard shortcut for double strikethrough, go under the Tools menu to Customize Keyboard. A menu will pop up that lists assigned keyboard shortcuts and that allows you to change or add keyboard commands. 
  1. Under Categories, select Format. You'll see a list of items that can be or are already assigned shortcuts.
  2. Scroll alphabetically to DoubleStrikethrough. Select it. Nothing will be in the box labeled Current Keys.
  3. Click in the field labeled Press new keyboard shortcut.
  4. Hit the key combination you want to assign to the task.
  5. Select Assign in the pop-up window.

Follow basically the same procedure if you prefer a different key combination for strikethrough (you'll select Remove) or want to add a second possible key combination for strikethrough (you won't select Remove, just add another combination).

Microsoft Word for Windows (Office 365)

You find the strikethrough in various places in Word.

  1. Along the Home ribbon, there is a shortcut button that has ab with a line struck through it. Just highlight your text and select that button. (On a Mac it has ABC with a line through it.)
  1. To bring up the Font dialogue box, along the bottom of the Home ribbon, select the icon to the right of the word Font, and then select the box next to Strikethrough.   

Excel (Office 365) for Mac

To apply strikethrough to some of the text in a cell: 

  1. Double-click to go into the cell.
  2. Highlight the text you want formatted.
  3. Press Control+5.

If you want to strike through the whole cell:

  1. Select the cell that you'd like to format.
  2. Press Control+5.

If you want to dig through menus:

  1. Select the cell or text you'd like to format (as above).
  2. Right-click, and then select Format Cells OR press Command+1 to bring up the formatting menu.
  3. Select Font in the ribbon at the top of the menu.
  4. In the middle of the pop-up menu, you'll see a box to select next to Strikethrough to apply the formatting.