Every time you open a book, explore the internet or even sign up for an email account at one of many popular free webmail sites, you are opening yourself to a world of symbols.
Nowadays, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all of these special marks and symbols, especially when you consider how they are used in different settings.
However, knowing what some of these symbols mean is also very important, especially for writing purposes.
Many different types of marks can be put into words to change or add meaning.
Learning these different symbol names will help you as a writer and can even prove useful when searching online or deciphering an acronym.
Symbol Names in English
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of symbols and punctuation marks you might come across when reading and writing.
See mathematical operators and symbols in Unicode to learn how to type these symbols fast.
Period/ Full Stop
The period/full stop is one of the most prevalent marks in written English, is used to end a sentence or indicate the end of specific abbreviations. For example, abbreviations like Mr. (Mr.), Dr./Dr (Doctor), Vol. (Volume), and No. (Number) tend to end in periods.
The comma is used as a method of separating items in a sentence. The English language tends to place commas after each item in a list and before conjunctions like “and” or “because.” It is also used to indicate specific pauses.
The colon is typically seen just before a list or explanation. An example sentence with a colon is “I like the following: iced tea, pizza, and biking.”
The exclamation mark is used to indicate excitement or emphasis. It can also be used to indicate irony or surprise. For example, “It’s a boy!” or “I have nothing to wear!”
The question mark is used to indicate an interrogative sentence. In other words, a sentence that asks a question.
The semicolon is used for a longer pause than a comma, but not as long as a period. An example is “I had a lot of questions; I didn’t have many answers.”
The ellipses are used as a pause, an unfinished thought, or replace omitted words. For example, “I know that you love him, but…” or “I didn’t know… I’m sorry.”
The dash can be seen in writing as a replacement for a colon (:), a semicolon (;), or an ellipses (…). It is used when describing certain actions, or it can indicate an interruption. For example, “I needed to run– I was already late.” or “Don’t eat wild mushrooms– they could poison you.”
The ampersand represents the word “and,” but it can also be seen in conjunction with business names that have formed a partnership. For example, companies like Johnson & Johnson or Tiffany & Co. use an ampersand to indicate the word “and” within their official names.
A quotation mark shows the beginning and the end of a direct quote. For example: “I can’t believe you said that.” or “She told me, ‘Don’t worry.”‘
An apostrophe is used to replace omitted letters in a contraction. For example, “You’re” would be used instead of “you are,” and “I’ll” would be used instead of “I will.” They can also indicate the plural of letters or numbers when put after them. For example, “John’s guitar.”
An asterisk generally signifies that something has been omitted and point to disclaimers. The asterisk is used to indicate a footnote reference that is placed at the bottom of the page.
The cent sign is used in accounting or as a form of currency—for example, $0.75 or 75c.
The degree sign is used as a symbol for temperature and elevation, as well as angles in geometry.
The hyphen is usually used to connect related words or parts of a compound word. For example, “I am a non-native English speaker.”
The slash is used to show alternatives, such as “male/female,” “yes/no.” It can be used as a division or fraction symbol, a date separator and is frequently seen in web addresses.
The percent sign is used for percent and can be written as “%” or “percent.” For example, “She got 100% in the exam.”
An octothorpe is better known as a hashtag on social media. Programmers invented it for the purpose of grouping data, but it has since become a popular tool for indicating a topic of interest on social media. It can also be used to represent the word number.
The plus sign is used to indicate addition, but it can also be seen in phone numbers, for example, +(353) 123456789.
The at mark(@) is used in email addresses. For example, email@example.com.
The equal sign is seen when writing an equation or in expressions of equality. It is also used to mention the total value of a calculation.
The underscore is a line drawn under text to indicate emphasis. It is also used as a replacement for spaces when coding or writing an internet link.
The bullet point is used to indicate a list, and it is often seen with numbers or other similar lists.
The parentheses are used around content that is not important to the sentence, but it could be seen as relevant. For example: “The movie (Titanic) was very interesting.”
The curly brackets are most commonly found in math, programming and music. It is rarely used and shouldn’t be used in formal writing.
The square brackets are used to indicate that text has been added or altered in some kind of way. When writing a direct quotation, the square brackets intend to clarify meaning or provide a brief explanation so the quote makes sense to the reader.
Greater Than Symbol
The greater than symbol is used to show that something is larger than another thing. For example, 10>2 means that the number 10 is greater than the number 2.
Less Than Symbol
The less than symbol is used to show that something is smaller or lower in value. For example, 2<10 means that the number 2 is smaller than the number 10.
The copyright symbol is seen in advertisements and official material. It notifies readers that an image, writing, or other pieces of content is the copyrighted property of the author.
The trademark symbol is used to indicate that an image, writing, or other piece of content is trademarked. A trademark means that a company can protect its brand to avoid false advertising.
A therefore sign is used to indicate that one statement is the result of another. It shows that two statements are related. For example, “I think it’s going to rain. Therefore, I will bring an umbrella with me.”
A backslash is used as the division symbol in programming. In web addresses, a backslash means that a section of text is an “address.”
A vertical bar is used in programming and music to indicate a choice, but it can also be seen to separate items in lists.
Inverted Question Mark
An inverted question mark is written to indicate a question in some Latin languages such as Spanish. It is written before the interrogative sentence or clause. It’s followed by the ‘ordinary’ question mark at the end of the sentence. For example, “¿Te gusta ir al cine?”
Inverted Exclamation Mark
An inverted exclamation mark, as seen in Spanish, is used to indicate a stronger emphasis on a statement. It can also be placed at the beginning of sentences to express shock. ¡Que guay!
The decimal point separates the whole number from the fractional part of the number. For example, 2.56, 123.9
The silcrow, or section sign, is used to refer to a certain section in a document. This is frequently seen in legal writing.
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