Technical Writing – Definition of Boilerplate

From a tech writer’s POV, boilerplate is any text that can be reused (sometimes called re-purposed) in a number of different documents without much change from the original. It’s copy a client often supplies that includes information about an organization’s history, facilities, or capabilities. Since these things don’t change, or change very little, there’s no point reinventing the information every time it’s needed. All the writer has to do is update and refresh the boilerplate and put it in where it’s needed.

From a programmer’s POV, boilerplate is sections of code that have to be included in multiple places in a program with little or no change. It’s also used to refer to languages that are verbose; when a programmer has to write a lot of code to do a small job.

From a legal POV, boilerplate is a standard provision in a contract. It’s the reason that when you buy a house, the contract is twenty pages long, and you have to sign here, here, here, initial here, and sign here.

For the word nuts (like me) here’s a little history. The term goes back about a hundred years when things ran on steam power. Because of the high pressure inside a steam boiler, the steel had to be tough and thick. Anything big and strong was called boilerplate. About the same time, when printing was done with steel plates that could be used over and over, text that was going to be widely reproduced was called boilerplate. Newspapers, especially, used boilerplate so papers could be printed all over the country by just shipping the printing plates to each location.