Posted by: Jack Henry | February 21, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Boilerplate

We receive several versions of copyright and trademark information from corporate, and one of those versions is our boilerplate information. This is the standard information we include in front of all of our documentation about our different products, slogans, and trademarked material. Somebody asked where the word boilerplate came from, and I found this:

From Merriam-Webster:



boiler plate or boiler iron: flat-rolled steel usually about a quarter to a half inch thick used especially for making boilers and tanks and for covering ships

2a : syndicated material supplied especially to weekly newspapers in matrix or plate form b : standardized text <A publisher’s contracts are, in the words of one executive, “boilerplate,” varying one from another only in matters such as royalty rates, the amount of advances … and so on. — W. Ross Winterowd, College Composition and Communication, May 1989> c : formulaic or hackneyed language <bureaucratic boilerplate>— often used before another noun <a boilerplate speech>

3a : a relatively smooth surface (as of flush or overlapping slabs of rock) on a cliff affording little or no foothold b : a frozen crusty surface of snow

I know what you’re thinking! I’ll take 3b, a frozen crusty surface of snow for $200, Trebek! Yeah, this wasn’t my favorite explanation either, and then I found this at Online Etymology Dictionary:

boilerplate (n.)

"iron rolled in large, flat plates for use in making steam boilers," 1840, from boiler + plate (n.). In newspaper (and now information technology) slang, "unit of writing that can be used over and over without change," 1893. The connecting notion probably is sturdiness or reusability, but it might also be literal: From 1890s to 1950s, publicity items were cast or stamped in metal ready for the printing press and distributed to country newspapers as filler. The largest supplier was Western Newspaper Union.

Great question from the audience; thank you for sending it my way.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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