English in Use/Less Common Typographical Marks

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

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.

Brackets ( ( ) [ ] { }〈 〉)[edit]

The crotchets, or brackets, generally inclose some correction or explanation, but sometimes the sign or subject to be explained: as,

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

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.

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 are also used in technical English, especially on the Internet to denote files within different folders on a server.

Other marks[edit]

ampersand ( & ) 
a substitute for the word 'and'. Most common in signs, titles, and informal writing.
asterism ( ⁂ ) 
calls special attention to a passage, or indicates minor breaks in text or sub-chapters in a book
at sign ( @ ) 
used on the Internet for email addresses and often used in informal language to represent 'at'.
bullet ( •, more ) 
used to mark items in lists
caret ( ^ ) 
currency ( ¤ ) 
dagger ( † ‡ ) 
commonly used to mark footnotes (along with the asterisk)
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
interrobang ( ‽ ) 
A superimposed exclamation point and question mark, sometimes used in place of !? to denote a surprised question.
number sign ( # ) 
used in American English preceding ordinal numbers
percent and related signs ( % ) ( ‰ ) ( ‱ ) 
pilcrow ( ¶ ) 
occasionally used to mark a new paragraph, in place of the usual line break and tab. In publications a decorative pilcrow is sometimes seen.
prime ( ′ ) 
section sign ( § ) 
spaces ( ) (   ) (   ) 
tilde ( ~ ) 
umlaut/diaresis ( ¨ ) 
underscore/understrike ( _ ) 
vertical line/pipe/broken bar ( | ) ( ¦ ) 


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

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?"

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.


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."


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.


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.


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


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


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


The paragraph denotes the commencement of a new subject. The parts of discourse which are called paragraphs, are, in general, sufficiently distinguished by beginning a new line, and carrying the first word a little forwards or backwards. The paragraphs of books being in some instances numbered, this character may occasionally be used, in lieu of the word paragraph, to shorten references.


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


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.


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.