I currently have a few workbooks published for my students that have fill in the blanks portions.

For example,

The sampling method is first ____________ sampling to choose a random street and then _____________ because you sample every other house. We can define a random variable X to be ___________________.

The blanks are the type in white font style. In Word I can update the font style to red with three clicks (I use Update STYLE to match selection). I then provide a PDF version with the answers in filled in.

The sampling method is first cluster sampling to choose a random street and then systematic because you sample every other house. We can define a random variable X to be “The number of houses that are white.” Then X=21.

This works but I would prefer underscores instead of blank space.


Is there a font with two variants; the usual version and a version where every character and space is replaced by an underscore (_), but still has the same spacing and line breaks? Changing between the variants should not change the word placement on the page. Or: Is there a way for me to easily create such a variant?

I know of many other teachers who make similar workbooks by manually entering thousands of instances of underscores, which takes to long. This could really help us.

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    I don't have access to Word right now, but in InDesign it's possible to make a text white, but have another color for the underlines. Isn't that possible in Word?
    – Wolff
    Apr 26, 2020 at 23:40
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    beware though if you release PDF files then fonts can be copied. Visible or not any person who copes a placeholder will see this. Even just underscores this is how UK leaked submarine capabilities. Much better to just use underscores. You can use search and replace to put them in Now be aware that again you may lek the length of your answer.
    – joojaa
    Apr 27, 2020 at 7:16
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    Also as a teacher you should know that this is sort of a XY problem except you have done quite well in explaining the background. Your suggested solution is not really super conductive in solving your problem for may reasons. To be honest i am a bit saddened by the lack of even rudimentary computer skills with many teachers. IN either case none of the solutions i perfect if you intend for page to be entirely intact as that would mean youd need to take in account keerning. And that would be prohibitively much work. May be best to script this.
    – joojaa
    Apr 27, 2020 at 8:17
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    … I just want to add that this is very easy to solve with LaTeX.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Apr 27, 2020 at 8:22
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    No human is going to write, by hand, in the same space a typeset word uses. Typeset words are much, much, much smaller than handwriting. Just use underscores... you don't need a font.
    – Scott
    Apr 27, 2020 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


Create your own custom font

You can easily create your own custom font(s) for this. A quick web search finds FontStruct and Calligrapher are free options, though I have never tried either one myself and I can no longer find what software I used when I did this for fun back in high school.

This is closest to the answer you requested, but if you are distributing workbooks electronically then it's trivial for students to cheat and get the hidden answers back. All they have to do is copy the hidden answer text from the PDF, paste it into another program, and change the color/font/underline/etc to get the answers readable again.

If your workbooks are only distributed in printed form, then copy-paste doesn't exist so this isn't a problem.

Search and replace (only safe option for electronically-distributed PDF workbooks)

Another option is actually replacing all characters in that style with underscores, with a Find and Replace All. Even if students get the PDFs with the blank spaces, copying the text into another program and changing font/color/underline/whatever only reveals the number of letters in the answer, but not the answer itself. Note to keep the same spacing and line breaks, your answers must use a monospace font like Consolas, Courier New, or one of the more normal-looking monospace fonts on Google Fonts. If you use a regular font, the spacings will all slightly expand as underscores _ characters are wider than characters like i. To do the replacement,

  1. Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace dialogue
  2. Click More >>.
  3. Enable the Use wildcards option
  4. Put ? in the Find what box (this is a wildcard matching any single character)
  5. Put _ in the Replace with box.
  6. At the bottom-left of the window, click FormatStyleYOURSTYLE Char (you need to select your style ending in Char, since you applied the style to individual word characters and not entire paragraphs, see this article for more info).
  7. Select Replace All and save a copy of the document (since this is permanently removing information).

Microsoft Word Search and Replace with Style and Wildcard

Style with white text and black (not automatic) underline

This option takes the least amount of work, but is also easily cheated from an electronic PDF. Idea comes from @Wolff in his comment above.

It is also possible to create a Word style with white text and a black underline. You said you know how to use Update Style to match selection, so just do this with some text with white text and a black underline. Note, you must set the underline color to Black and not leave it on Automatic.

Set black underline color

Update style to match selection

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    The last method is the only one that dont possibly leak info
    – joojaa
    Apr 27, 2020 at 7:20
  • @joojaa I almost 100% agree, although the OP only said the answer key is shared as an electronic PDF. The blank student workbooks could be distributed on paper and not electronically, and that would also be pretty much bullet proof. Students could guess words based on the length of the underline, but that's likely more work than completing the worksheet as intended. Apr 27, 2020 at 7:57
  • Yes but considering that we are in lock down around most of the world. Its safe to assume that the teacher may in fact also need to think about digital distribution. In which case HTML would be a much better idea though
    – joojaa
    Apr 27, 2020 at 8:10
  • Altough i dont know if any of these solutions actually solve the may not change the documents layout.
    – joojaa
    Apr 27, 2020 at 8:19
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    @joojaa Edited answer to emphasize the safe method, and to use monospaced font for the answers to avoid a change in spacing (only avoids spacing change when going from hidden to shown answers, obviously spacing changes when the font is changed. But I think OP is fine with this as was looking for a different font in the first place). Apr 27, 2020 at 8:29

I've created worksheets of this kind and you have to bear in mind, before anything else, that a handwritten answer is going to take up TWICE as much width as the answer printed, and TWICE as much height vertically, at any normal size of font. Fonts are far more compact than a hand-written answer, so replacing a printed answer with an equivalent width space never works out, let alone if the student needs to make changes. Also, you have to have white space above and below the answer: you cannot, cannot, CANNOT mark out a space in the middle of a block of text (like this: _________________) and expect students to fill an answer into that space.

Sure, people can write smaller, but it's really uncomfortable, especially for young people, try it and you'll see.

So my first recommendation is to put all answers at the end of a line, and convert them to white, like below. Leave a line above and below each question. Export a copy: that's your question sheet. Select all text, convert to black, that's your answer sheet. Also lets people quickly run their eye down the list of questions and compare the questions with the answers side-by-side. Ideal format looks like this:

Write an answer here:

And also here:

The other good option is a two-column table with the questions in one and answers in the other. Same idea.

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