Writing Someone’s Story Since 1983

When to Use Special Typographic Symbols

When to Use Special Typographic Symbols

Following up on another post, I’d like to provide some information on when special typographic symbols should be used.

  • Ampersand (&) — Used informally to denote “and”
  • Ampersat (@) — Commonly used in email address but also used informally to denote “at” or, in healthcare, “before”
  • Asterisk (*) — Denotes a footnote; also used to indicate unknown letters (as in “sh*t”)
  • Asterism (⁂) — Rarely used symbol that calls attention to text that follows
  • Back slash (\) — Used primarily in computing and website addresses
  • Caret (^) — Commonly used by editors and copyeditors to indicate text or other content to be added to a particular location in a document
  • Copyright (©) — Used to indicate a copyrighted name or document, typically immediately prior to the copyright year
  • Dagger (†) — Also called an obelisk; denotes a second footnote (double dagger ‡ ) on a page
  • Degree (°) — Indicates degrees of temperature or angle
  • Zero glyph (slashedzero.jpg) — Infrequently used in typography; used in handwriting to indicate zero as distinguished from capital O
  • Ellipsis (…) — Indicates missing text (Note: When an ellipsis is used at the end of a sentence (use an ellipsis symbol and then a period.)
  • Em dash (—) — Commonly used to replace a colon, comma, or parenthetical phrase (Called “em” dash because it is the width of the lowercase “m”)
  • En dash (–) — Indicates a range, as in 2–4 or 2007–2010; also used as a minus sign (Equal to ½ width of em dash)
  • Guillemets (gillemet.jpg) — Used in some languages to indicate speech
  • Hyphen (-) — Used to join words (“full-blown argument”) or indicate a missing word (“short- and long-range” )
  • Interpunct () — Rarely used dot between words; sometimes used in logos
  • Interrobang (‽) — Rarely used combination of exclamation point and question mark; indicates an exclamatory question (“Do you have any idea what you’re doing‽”)
  • Lozenge (⧫) — Open or closed diamond often used as a bullet
  • Pound sign (#) — Also called octothorpe or hashtag; indicates pounds in weight or to precede a word or phrase (without spaces) commonly searched online
  • Obelus (÷) — Division sign in mathematics
  • Pilcrow (❡) — Commonly used by editors and copyeditors to indicate new paragraph break
  • Prime (′) — Used most often to indicate feet or minutes; double prime used to indicate inches or seconds
  • Registered trademark (®) — Indicates name or logo that has been registered with a national trademark office
  • Section sign (§) — Also called silcow; most commonly indicates a particular section of a document, especially legal documents
  • Virgule( ⁄) — Also called solidus; separates nominator and denominator in a fraction; not the same as a forward slash, which is more upright (/)
  • Therefore sign (∴) — Used in mathematical proofs before a logical consequence
  • Tilde (~) — Used as a diacritical mark over letters (ã) or in mathematics to indicate an approximation (~18) or similarity between values
  • Trademark (™) — Used after a symbol, word, or phrase legally representing a company or product of a company

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