Asterism (typography)

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For other uses, see Asterism.
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In typography, an asterism, from the Greek astēr (star),[1] is the rarely used and nearly obsolete[2] symbol consisting of three asterisks placed in a triangle (⁂). It is used to "indicate minor breaks in text,"[3] call attention to a passage, or to separate sub-chapters in a book. It is Unicode character U+2042 ASTERISM (HTML ⁂). For common use in Microsoft Office hold the Alt and type 8258 in a numeric keyboard to produce the character using Alt code, but it has very limited support in the default fonts included (Arial Unicode MS / Code2000 / Lucida Sans Unicode / Lucida Grande / MS (P)Mincho / Segoe UI).

Asterisms in use
Asterisms in James Joyce Ulysses, the "Wandering Rocks" chapter, from the 1922 edition. The 1961 edition used a hollow "white" star (☆), and the 1984 edition used a "dinkus" (***).

Often, this symbol is replaced with three consecutive asterisks (called a dinkus[4]), more than three asterisks, or three or more dots.[2] Otherwise, an extra space between paragraphs is used. An asterism or its analogue may be used in conjunction with the extra space to mark a smaller subdivision than a sub-chapter.

It can also be used to mean 'untitled' or author or title withheld, for example, some editions of Album for the Young by composer Robert Schumann (no.'s 21, 26, and 30).[5] Besides originating from the same word, "the rarely used asteriscus, which Isidore of Seville says 'is put in place of something that has been omitted so as to call attention to the omission'," also resembles the asterism.[1][6] In meteorology, an asterism in a station model indicates moderate snowfall.

The asterism should not be confused with the similar looking therefore signU+2234 THEREFORE (HTML ∴ · ∴)—which is composed of three round dots rather than asterisks.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Alexander Humez, Nicholas D. Humez (2008). On the Dot: The Speck That Changed the World, p.72 & 186n. ISBN 978-0-19-532499-0.
  2. ^ a b Radim Peško, Louis Lüthi (2007). Dot Dot Dot 13, p.193. Stuart Bailey, Peter Bilak, eds. ISBN 978-90-77620-07-6.
  3. ^ Hudson, Robert (2010). The Christian Writer's Manual of Style, p.396. ISBN 978-0-310-86136-2.
  4. ^ Lundmark, Torbjorn Quirky Qwerty: A Biography of the Keyboard (2002)
  5. ^ Taruskin, Richard (2005). The Oxford history of western music, Volume 3, p.311. ISBN 978-0-19-516979-9.
  6. ^ Full original: Asteriscus apponitur in iis, quae omissa sunt, ut illucescant per iam notam, quae deesse videntur. Stella enim ἀστήρ graeco sermone dicitur, a quo Asteriscus est derivatus. Figura 1 Isidore of Seville. Etymologiae. p. 33.