4 Punctuation

4.15 Asterisk

A superscript asterisk * is used in text as a pointer to an annotation or footnote, especially in books that have occasional footnotes rather than a formal system of notes (see also 14.1.6). It can also indicate a cross-reference in a reference work:

  • Thea *Porter and Caroline *Charles created dresses and two-piece outfits based on gypsy costume

Asterisks may be used to indicate individual missing letters, with each asterisk substituting for a missing letter and closed up to the next asterisk: that b******! En rules are also used for this purpose (see 4.11.1).

On websites and in emails asterisks are sometimes used to indicate emphasis, in place of quotation marks, or to show where italicization would normally be used, for example in the titles of books or other works that are mentioned:

  • The engagement, the debate, the willingness to engage—*that’s* what’s important

  • Maybe some people can handle these little romances as *harmless fun*, but I can’t

Asterisks should not be used in place of dots for ellipsis.

For uses in computing see 14.5.3; for other uses see 10.3.


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