In English, in the middle of a sentence if data is being left blank (such as an unknown date, or a name to be filled in at a later time), commonly you see ???, ___ (underscore(s)), or -- to mark this. You can see examples in books such as Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, where the year is always indicated as 18--, hiding the last two digits. In Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal (although not the most formal example of language), your rival was called ??? until you named him.

In Japanese and Korean, 〇〇 (or simply 〇 at times, though this is easy to confuse with 0 in Japanese) is used to mark "something" in that place.

In Chinese, what is/are the most common ways to suggest that data is missing or incomplete?

  • I've seen question marks for unknown birthdates.
    – Mou某
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 11:01
  • 4
    I believe there's no universal standard in Chinese. Follow the specific style manuals if there's any, otherwise choose one you like: , _, (yes, for a year written in Chinese you should avoid this because it's easy to confuse with 0), (these are what I've seen in Chinese context before).
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 11:14

2 Answers 2


Generally putting XX is fine unless formal. People use that a lot orally. X is usually pronounced as 叉, but can vary based on region.

Formally and also very commonly for missing name is using 某.

王某 (someone with surname 王 and one-character given name)

王某某 (someone with surname 王 and two-character given name)

某某/某某某 (very general, someone with unknown name, no implication on length of name)

For dates, if exact year is unknown or of no importance, you say 19世纪 (19th century), 19世纪80年代 (1880s)

  • 3
    Formal documents use X too. For example, "中华人民共和国国家标准 国家行政机关公文格式 GB/T9704-1999", page 8 and samples in the end.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 12:34
  • Out of pure curiosity, is there a way of showing that you only know the millennium that something happened in and nothing else? Something like 1st millennium (i.e. from 0CE ~ 999CE)?
    – sqrtbottle
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 22:15
  • 1
    The only translations I could find are very literal, @Sqrtbottle: 一千年 and 千年间. Sorry about the irrelevant quibble, but the first millenium is from 1CE to 1000CE, because there is no year 0.
    – Don Kirkby
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 1:21
  • @Don Kirkby, I was thinking astronomy where there is one, but thanks for your comment!
    – sqrtbottle
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 5:47

□ (white square) is used to indicate that some characters are missing or unrecognizable. Each white square correspond to one such character.

See 虚缺号的用法.

  • this is the correct answer... in critical editions of classical texts squares are used to represent illegible / missing places where characters should be. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 21:36
  • I agree that squares are common when characters are missing entirely. I was looking more in reference to when data is blank to be filled in later (rather than missing or corrupted). Things like placeholders for something else when you're showing how something is generically laid out. English doesn't have a standard one, though underscores and xx seems common. @Stan's document gives the best examples in Chinese that I can think of
    – sqrtbottle
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 11:51
  • ohhhhhh ok. for placeholders. Thanks for clarifying. Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 11:58
  • 江邻几杂志   唐相李程子廓,从父过三亭渡,为小石隐足,痛以呼父。程云:“太华峰头,□□□(原文佚)仙人手迹;黄河滩里,争知有隐人脚跟。” Don't know if “原文佚” also applys here
    – Mou某
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 6:54

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