English in Use/Less Common Typographical Marks

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  • the Acute accent [´]
  • the Asterisk [*]
  • the Asterism []
  • the Brace, or Curly Brackets [{}]
  • the Breve [˘]
  • the Caret [^]
  • the Cedilla [¸]
  • the Circumflex [ˆ]
  • the Crotchets, or Brackets [[]],
  • the Diaeresis [¨]
  • the Diesis, or Double Dagger []
  • the Ellipsis []]
  • the Grave accent [`]
  • the Guillements, or Angle Quotes [«»]
  • the Index []
  • the Macron [¯]
  • the Obelisk, or Dagger []
  • the Paragraph []
  • the Quotation Marks [“”]
  • the Parallels [||]
  • the Section [§]

Acute accent [ ´ ][edit]

The acute accent marks the syllable which requires the principal stress in pronunciation: as, e'qual, equal'ity. It is sometimes used in opposition to the grave accent, to distinguish a close or short vowel: as, Fancy; or to denote the rising inflection of the voice: as,

  • "Is it he?"

Asterisk ( * )[edit]

The asterisk, or star, the obelisk, or dagger, the diesis, or double dagger, the section, the parallels, and the paragraph, refer to marginal notes. Where many references are to be made, the small letters of the alphabet, or the numerical figures, in their order, may be conveniently used for the same purpose.

Asterism [][edit]

The asterism, or three stars, a sign not very often used, is placed before a long or general note, to mark it as a note, without giving it a particular reference.

At sign at sign ( @ )[edit]

The at sign is variously used in various conventions. Originally it was an accountancy abbreviation for "at", as:

  • "One load of erunam @ $7.50 per bucket"

and still used informally to represent 'at'
On the Internet it commomly indicates the start of an email address

Brace or Curly Brackets [{}][edit]

The brace serves to unite a triplet; or, more frequently, to connect several terms with something to which they are all related.

Brackets of various types ( ( ) [ ] { }〈 〉)[edit]

The crotchets, parentheses or brackets generally enclose a parenthetic correction or remark, but sometimes the sign or subject to be explained: as,

  • "He [Mr. Maurice] was of a different opinion."—Allen's Gram., p. 213.

In formal notation it can delimit an expression to be used as a term or logical unit in a larger expression, to be evaluated out of the lexical sequence before being included in the encompassing expression. eg, in the following expression, the addition must be performed before the multiplication or division:

  • "The assessment is to be calculated as: Contribution * (age + diameter) / mean weighting"

Breve [ ˘ ][edit]

The breve, or stenotone, is used to denote either the close, short, shut sound of a vowel, or a syllable of short quantity: as, l˘ive, to have life; r˘av'en, to devour; c˘al˘am˘us, a reed.

Caret [^][edit]

The caret, used only in writing, shows where to insert words or letters that have been accidentally omitted.

Cedilla [¸][edit]

The cedilla is borrowed from the French. It is placed under the letter c, to give it the sound of s, before a or o: as, Façade, Alençon. It is sometimes attached to other letters, to denote their soft sounds: Ģ as J; Ş as Z.


The circumflex generally denotes either the broad sound of a or an unusual sound given to some other vowel: as in all, heir, machine. Some use it to mark a peculiar wave of the voice, and when occasion requires, reverse it: as,

  • "If you said s^o, then I said so."

Degree sign[edit]

The degree sign ( ° ) : marks several different units: arc degrees, temperature degrees, and (rarely) hours of time. Different from the masculine ordinal indicator, used to abbreviate ordinal numbers in some languages

Diaeresis [¨][edit]

The diaeresis, or dialysis, placed over either of two contiguous vowels, shows that they are not a diphthong: as, Danaee, aerial.

Ellipsis ()[edit]

The ellipsis, or suppression, denotes the omission of some letters or words: as, K…g, for King; c…d, for coward; d…d, for damned.

Grave accent [`][edit]

The grave accent is used in opposition to the acute, to distinguish an open or long vowel: as, Favour; or to denote the falling inflection of the voice: as,

  • "Yes; it is he."

It is sometimes placed over a vowel to show that it is not to be suppressed in pronunciation: as,

  • "Let me, though in humble speech, your refined maxims teach."—Amer. Review, May, 1848.

Index [][edit]

The index, or hand, points out something remarkable, or what the reader should particularly observe: as,

  • " On odd dates it is a criminal offence to bring a wheeled vehicle into the controlled area

Macron [¯][edit]

The macron, or macrotone, is used to denote either the open, long, primal sound of a vowel, or a syllable of long quantity: as, l¯ive, having life; r¯a'ven, a bird; ¯e'qu¯ine, of a horse.

Number sign, octothorpe, pound sign, or hash ( # )[edit]

The number sign is variously used in different conventions. Commonly means "number" when preceding ordinal numbers, but weight when following numbers

Paragraph mark or pilcrow [][edit]

The paragraph denotes the commencement of a new subject. Those parts of discourse that usually are called paragraphs, generally are sufficiently distinguished by beginning a new line, often with the first word or the body text indented. However, when referring to numbered paragraphs in books, the pilcrow may be used as an abbreviation for the word "paragraph".

Section [§][edit]

The section marks the smaller divisions of a book or chapter; and, with the help of numbers, serves to abridge references.

Slash/Solidus (/) and backslash (\)[edit]

Forward slashes are used to indicate alternatives, connect words, and form abbreviations. For example, black/white, either/or, w/o (without).
Slashes also are used variously in technical notation, for example to denote division, rates or fractions, or to denote files within different folders on an Internet server.

Other marks[edit]

ampersand ( & ) 
a substitute for the word 'and'. Most common in signs, titles, and informal writing.
bullet ( •, more ) 
used to mark items in lists
currency ( ¤ ) 
dagger ( † ‡ ) 
commonly used to mark footnotes (along with the asterisk)
interrobang ( ‽ ) 
A superimposed exclamation point and question mark, sometimes used in place of !? to denote a surprised question.
percent and related signs ( % ) ( ‰ ) ( ‱ ) 
prime ( ′ ) 
spaces ( ) (   ) (   ) 
tilde ( ~ ) 
umlaut/diaresis ( ¨ ) 
underscore/understrike ( _ ) 
vertical line/pipe/broken bar ( | ) ( ¦ )