Boilerplate text, or simply boilerplate, is any written text (copy) that can be reused in new contexts or applications without being changed much from the original. The term is used in reference to statements, contracts and computer code, and is used in the media to refer to hackneyed or unoriginal writing.
"Boiler plate" originally referred to the rolled steel used to make boilers to heat water. Metal printing plates of prepared text such as advertisements or syndicated columns were distributed to small, local newspapers, and became known as 'boilerplates' by analogy. One large supplier to newspapers of this kind of boilerplate was the Western Newspaper Union, which supplied "ready-to-print stories [which] contained national or international news" to papers with smaller geographic footprints, which could include advertisements pre-printed next to the conventional content.
In contract law, the term "boilerplate language" or "boilerplate clause" describes the parts of a contract that are considered standard. A standard form contract or boilerplate contract is a contract between two parties, where the terms and conditions of the contract are set by one of the parties, and the other party has little or no ability to negotiate more favorable terms and is thus placed in a "take it or leave it" position.
Boilerplate language may also exist in pre-created form letters on the Internet for such things as issues to be broached by a politician based on an issue ad, requests that a cable or satellite operator add a cable network to a system, pre-written complaints about a product that is opposed by groups that create such letters, or online petitions. The person requesting the action usually only needs to type or sign his or her name at the end of the pre-written greeting and body.
In computer programming, boilerplate is the sections of code that have to be included in many places with little or no alteration. Such boilerplate code is particularly salient when the programmer must include a lot of code for minimal functionality. The need for boilerplate can be reduced through high-level mechanisms.
A related phenomenon, bookkeeping code, is code that is not part of the business logic, but is interleaved with it in order to keep data structures updated or able to handle secondary aspects of the program.