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After a form is saved and displayed, I want to show a placeholder if a field was left empty, so that the user reading it understands that it is not a UI issue.

Example:

Name: Jeff
Surname:
Mail: jeff@example.org

What is a universally understood placeholder for missing text? A dash? A copy describing the issue like [missing text]? NA, N.a., n/a?

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  • In part, it depends on how you present the information (for example, if it's a table, you might use a background color for a cell). Otherwise, a dash or Danielillo's answer is the best solution, as it is more visually readable than N/A (or any other word). Personally, I would go with Danielillo's answer. I never thought about it (I tend to use 2 dashes ), but after seeing it, I think it's perfect.
    – Devin
    Sep 20 at 15:50

2 Answers 2

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First of all, error messages are not enemies, they're friends or guides who explain what to do if you are facing some difficulties while completing the form. Here you will have to use actionable messages instead of dashes while expressing what to do.

For inspiration, I am including a Google account screenshot where you can see how they use the placeholder text for birthday.

Google account - personal information

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  • To clarify, I was not talking about placeholder text. Perhaps I should have worded it differently. I am talking about the value when a field is saved empty. A "marker of emptiness", so to speak.
    – KMSTR
    Sep 20 at 8:17
  • If a user doesn't mention any information, which means they don't want to complete that field for now, you can use the placeholder text to describe to them what to do. And for the placeholder text, you use a lighter grey color, which adds more clarity in your design to understand which fields are completed and which are left. If the form is huge, you can also group the completed and left ones separately.
    – Rishi Shah
    Sep 20 at 10:40
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I think more understandable than a dash for a missing text is an em dash: &mdash or &#8212

Name: Jeff
Surname:
Mail: jeff@example.org

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    I am not sure the switch from en dash to em dash is going to massively improve the readability with most users...
    – KMSTR
    Sep 15 at 15:35
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    There is a subtle difference between massively improved and more understandable. In no case did I use the first one in the answer.
    – Danielillo
    Sep 15 at 15:49
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    I'm OK with a dash, but this one clearly improves legibility for me
    – Devin
    Sep 20 at 15:45

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