Posted by: episystechpubs | July 6, 2012

Editor’s Corner: Degrees, Ditto, and Dollars

Before we start with today’s symbols in writing, I’d like to impart some not-so-grammarly information. I had several people ask me how to make the “cent” symbol yesterday, and like magic, Javier Romero sent me the answer! He suggested I pass on the information, and I think that’s a brilliant idea. Really, all you have to do is search Google for “alt codes” and you get tons of information. To save you time, I’ve previewed some of the sites and selected these three for various reasons. I’m sure there are prettier ones out there, but time is of the essence.

· Provides instructions on how to create symbols using a desktop PC, laptop, or Mac; also provides a list of symbols and the associated alt code.

· Provides categorized lists of codes (e.g., alphabet, bullet, and trademark symbols), a “how to” section, and additional information on alt codes.

· Links to categorized lists and a quick-reference guide/list of codes.

Now for the next three symbols, from Daily Writing Tips (

5. ° (Degree Sign)

The sign for degrees of arc or degrees of temperature, which started out as a superscripted zero, was chosen for consistency with use of the minute (′) and second marks (″) employed in geometry and geography; those symbols originally stood for the Latin numerals I and II. The degree sign appears in technical contexts, but in general-interest publications, the word degree is generally used.

In references to temperature, the symbol (and the designation of the temperature scale) immediately follows the associated numerical figure (“45°C”). This style is true of many publishing companies, though the US Government and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures prescribe a space between the number and the symbol (“45 °C”), while other publications omit the first letter space but insert another between the symbol and the abbreviation (“45° C”).

” (Ditto Sign)

The ditto sign, first attested three thousand years ago, signals that text shown above is to be repeated, as in a list in which the same quantity of various materials is intended to be expressed:

Apples 24
bananas "
oranges "

The word ditto, meaning “said,” derives from the Tuscan language, the immediate ancestor of Italian, but was borrowed into English hundreds of years ago. The word, its abbreviation (do.), and the symbol are considered inappropriate for most writing, though the term has often been used in informal spoken and written language to mean “(the same as) what he/she said.” Although the symbol has a distinct character code for online writing, straight or curly close quotation marks are usually employed to produce it.

$ (Dollar Sign)

This symbol for the American dollar and many other currencies was first used to refer to the peso, which inspired the American currency system. Various origin stories for the symbol come in and out of fashion, but it’s most likely that it developed from an abbreviation of pesos in which the initial p preceded a superscript s; the tail of the initial was often superimposed on the s. A dollar sign with two vertical lines is a less common variant.

Most books and other formal publications tend to spell out dollars in association with a (spelled-out or numerical) figure, but periodicals usually use the symbol, as do specialized books about finance or business or others with frequent references to money. In international publications, when the symbol is used, for clarity, it is combined with the abbreviation US (“US$1.5 million” or “US $1.5 million”).

The dollar sign is also used as an abbreviated reference to various functions in computer programming and similar contexts.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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