The pilcrow (¶; Unicode U+00B6, HTML entity ¶), also called the paragraph sign or the alinea (Latin: a linea, "off the line"), is a typographical character commonly used to denote individual paragraphs. This non-alphabetic symbol varies between typefaces, but the form shown here is typical.

The pilcrow can be used as an indent for separate paragraphs or to designate a new paragraph in one long piece of copy, as Eric Gill did in his 1930s book, An Essay On Typography. The pilcrow was used in the Middle Ages to mark a new train of thought, before the convention of physically discrete paragraphs was commonplace.

The pilcrow is usually drawn like a backwards letter P reaching to caps height or ascender height, but may also be drawn with the bowl stretching further downwards, resembling a backwards D.

History and etymology

Pilcrow might be a derivation of paragraph through parcrafte; the etymology is uncertain, yet, the Oxford English Dictionary says that 'apparently', pilcrow originated as an unattested version in English of the French pelagraphe, a corruption of "paragraph"; the earliest reference is c.1440. Another derivation suggested is pilcrow originating as a letter C, for capitulum, "chapter" in Latin. In this account, the pilcrow is the paraph symbol that replaced the paragraphos, which was marked with different symbols, including the section sign. Moreover, the paraph also could be marked with a full-height, cents-like sign or with a double slash, originally symbols indicating a note from the scribe to the rubricator.

Contemporary use

The pilcrow has been used in desktop publishing software such as word processors and page layout programs to mark the presence of a carriage return control character at the end of a paragraph. It is also used as the icon on a class of toolbar button which shows or hides the pilcrow and similar "hidden characters", including tabs, whitespace, and page breaks. In typing programs, it is used to mark a return that one needs to type.

In legal writing, it is used whenever one must reference a specific paragraph within pleadings, law review articles, statutes, or other legal documents and materials.

In proofreading, it is used to indicate that one paragraph should be split into two or more separate paragraphs; the pilcrow is inserted at the point at which a new paragraph should begin.

Online, it is used in some blogs and wikis to denote permalinks (cf Purple Numbers).

In Unicode, the character is called PILCROW SIGN, and has codepoint U+00B6. The HTML entity for it is ¶.

The pilcrow character can be added as a visible, printable character on the Windows operating system using the shortcut alt + 0182. Depending on the font used, this character will have varied appearance, and in some cases, may be replaced by an alternate glyph entirely.

On a Mac OS computer the pilcrow character can be generated by typing Option + 7.

Paragraph signs in non-Latin writing systems

In Chinese, the traditional paragraph sign is a thin circle about the same size as a Chinese character. This same mark also serves as a “zero” character, as a stylistic variation of the Chinese character for “zero”. As a paragraph sign, this mark only appears in older books. Its current use is generally as a “zero” character.

In Thai, the character ๛ (Unicode U+0E5B, Thai character Khomut) can be used to mark the end of a chapter or document.

See also


External links

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