StrictlyI had a meeting with a client last week, where we discussed the tone of voice required for her two different businesses. We decided her B2B* audience required semi-colons, while her B2C** audience didn’t. It was interesting to be able to sum up the entire brief with just one punctuation mark.

We bemoaned the decline of the semi-colon in general, and went on to talk about other punctuation marks. As you do.

She pointed out that making “double quote” signs in the air is a quick way to annoy people.

I mentioned how the hash symbol has escaped from Twitter. Children in playgrounds say out loud: “Hashtag just kidding”. Presenters on TV make the symbol using the first two fingers on each hand e.g. Davina McCall. (Have you seen her do this?)

It’s a long time since the day I overheard someone on the phone saying: “What the ****’s the hash symbol?” (In his case, I suspect he had the other type of hash on his mind.)

AsteriskWhich brings us onto the asterisk. Not just used to denote a footer comment, as used in this blog post. Not just used in place of swear words, also demonstrated in this blog post. Not to be confused with Asterix The Gaul. The asterisk is now used across social media to correct mis-spellings (see example left).

The slash symbol has also escaped, probably from HTML. When watching Strictly, you’ll see Claudia Winkleman slash the air with her forearm as she gives out the web address.

RetweetThe double slash is a good way to separate your comment from a retweet (see example right).

I heard the inventor of the URL (web address format) regrets setting them up as He said the :// didn’t mean anything. And, as you may know, you no longer have to type the www. Despite that, I know a web design company that prefixes each heading with two slashes, to make them look more web-friendly.

SnippetAlso from HTML, the triangle brackets are used – combined with a slash – to start and end a rant or a snippet. (By the way, the em-dash is becoming increasingly popular.)

There is hardly a password that doesn’t ask you to include symbols as well as letters and numbers.

Years ago, I was invited to draw a self-portrait. I drew a tall figure with curly hair surrounded by letters – the tools of my trade. These days, I would probably have to include symbols too.

Can you think of any novel uses of punctuation marks I’ve missed?

*  Business-to-business
** Business-to-consumer


Jackie · September 30, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Oops. I should have included emoticons. Here are some of the most common (to be viewed sideways):

🙂 or 🙂 Classic smiley

🙁 or 🙁 Sad face

😉 or 😉 Wink

😛 Sticking out your tongue

@-‘-,——- Giving someone a rose

Vicki Harris · October 26, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I would really like to see the return of the interrobang – because there are times when you just need to exclaim a question!

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