Saturday, June 15, 2024

Special Characters

In working with graphics and text on a daily basis, I have found a couple of neat special characters that are hidden in most character sets (or fonts). Most of these are common characters, they’re just called by escape sequences (for HTML), or ALT-1234, 1234 being the distinquishing factor. Below is a list of useful characters and how to make them.

The “Real” Quotes
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the generic double and single quotes. Quotes are meant to be rounded or squared, not straight up and down like the generic standard. Rounded/squared quotes make excellent pulled quote graphics, or emphasize quotes in larger fonts much better than their silly generic counterparts. Don’t settle for anything but the best, even if it means typing 4 more characters!

Decimal Code: &#0147 , &#0148
Keys To Press: ALT-0147 (left), ALT-0148 (right)

Double Angle Quotation Mark
The name of this character is a little misleading, as it doesn’t really look like a quotation mark at all. This character looks more like the greater than / less than sign, and fits perfectly in front of important text, or text you want to highlight, like a news headline.

Decimal Code: » , «
Keys To Press: ALT-0187 (right), ALT-0171 (left)

The Pilcrow
The pilcrow has been around for quite some time in the world of typography, denoting a paragraph break. It has been replaced by paragraph breaks and better spacing techniques that come with digital design and layout, sadly, and isn’t used very much anymore. One place I’m sure you’ve seen this character is in the Bible. Short Bible verses make for very choppy paragraphs, and little or no margin lines. The pilcrow allowed early designers to show paragraph breaks without actually wasting the space. It can be a very effective method of layout, if the pilcrow is printed with a different color, usually red.

Decimal Code: ¶
Keys To Press: ALT-0182

The Dagger
The Dagger is another underused, and very classic component of typography. It has been used to denote a number of different things and can be seen in a variety of contexts. The dagger is most widely seen as a footnote marker, or the denoting symbol for an amendment to a specified text. The dagger can be seen in dictionaries marking words that have become obsolete, and in genealogical texts marking the deceased.

Decimal Code: †
Keys To Press: ALT-0134

In light of the “desktop publishing revolution”, in which anyone with a computer and the right software can layout type and images, some typographic ideals still remain as meaningful as they ever were, if you know how and where to apply them!

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