The pilcrow (¶), also called the paragraph mark, paragraph sign, paraph, alinea (Latin: a lineā, "off the line"), or blind P, is a typographical character for individual paragraphs. It is present in Unicode as U+00B6 ¶ pilcrow sign (HTML:
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 a type of rubrication used in the Middle Ages to mark a new train of thought, before the convention of visually discrete paragraphs was commonplace.
The pilcrow is usually drawn similar to a lowercase q reaching from descender to ascender height; the loop can be filled or unfilled. It may also be drawn with the bowl stretching further downwards, resembling a backwards D; this is more often seen in older printing.
History and etymology
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word pilcrow "apparently" originated in English from an unattested version of the French pelagraphe, a corruption of paragraph; the earliest reference is c.1440. The Oxford Universal Dictionary says it may be from "pulled [plucked] crow," based on its appearance.
In form, the pilcrow is understood to have originated as a letter C, for capitulum, "chapter" in Latin. This C was the paraph symbol that replaced in the function of marking off paragraphs the Greek-style paragraphos, and other symbols including the section sign. Moreover, the paraph also could be marked with a full-height sign similar to ¢ (cents) or with a double slash, originally symbols indicating a note from the scribe to the rubricator.
The pilcrow is used in desktop publishing software such as desktop 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 academic writing, it is sometimes used as an in-text referencing tool to make reference to a specific paragraph from a document that does not contain page numbers. It is most commonly used to refer to a paragraph in an HTML page, allowing the reader to find where that particular idea or statistic was sourced. Convention states that the pilcrow sign followed by a number indicates the paragraph number from the top of the page. It is rarely used when citing books or journal articles.
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.
In some high-church Anglican and Episcopal churches, it is used in the printed order of service to indicate that instructions follow; these indicate when the congregation should stand, sit, and kneel, who participates in various portions of the service, and similar information. King's College, Cambridge uses this convention in the service booklet for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. This is analogous to the writing of these instructions in red in some rubrication conventions.
- In Unicode, the character is U+00B6 ¶ pilcrow sign (HTML:
- Mac OS: ⌥ Opt+7
- Vim, in insert mode: ^ Ctrl+K PI
- Windows Alt code: ⎇ Alt+0182 (on numeric keypad). Depending on the font used, this character will have varied appearance, and in some cases, may be replaced by an alternate glyph entirely.
- X Window System, with a compose key: ⎄ Compose, ⇧ Shift+P, ⇧ Shift+P
- Mobile devices, including tablets, may require additional software (e.g. Cymbol for iPad). Tools may be required to easily generate a pilcrow, or other special characters. This may be done via direct button or using a unicode conversion.
Paragraph signs in non-Latin writing systems
In Chinese, the traditional paragraph sign (rendered as 〇) 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, commonly found in the Chinese Union Version of the Bible. Its current use is generally as a “zero” character. However, it can also be found in some editions of King James Version Bibles and the Book of Mormon.
In Sanskrit and other Indian languages text blocks used to be written in stanzas. Two bars || represented Pilcrow.
Reversed and ornamental pilcrow
Apart from U+00B6 ¶ pilcrow sign (182decimal), Unicode also defines U+204B ⁋ reversed pilcrow sign (8267decimal) and U+2761 ❡ curved stem paragraph sign ornament (10081decimal)
- "Notes, references and bibliographies: Notes". Style manual (3 ed.). Canberra: Australian government publishing service. 1978.
- Stamp, Jimmy (2013-07-10). "The Origin of the Pilcrow, aka the Strange Paragraph Symbol". Design Decoded (a Smithsonian blog).
- Parkes, M. B. (1993). Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07941-8.
- "ongoing — Purple Pilcrows". Tbray.org. 2004-05-31. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
- "Windows Alt Key Codes". Penn State University. 2010.
- "Cymbol for iPad". PhoneApp.com. 2011.
- "iPad Writing Tool". iDevices World – Australia. 2011.