Friday, April 19, 2013

A Brief History of Punctuation, Plus: Fun with Manicules

by Derek Spencer

Over at Shady Characters, Keith Houston presents a brief summary of the history of punctuation.

Very cool. I knew the function of the asterism ( , not to be confused with the "therefore" symbol used in logic, ), but I had no idea how the manicule ( ) was meant to be used.

In the case of the manicule, form follows function: it's used to point the reader's attention to important bits of text. Sadly, it looks just awful at smaller sizes — which surely contributed to its falling out of favor. Just look at the manicule in 12 pt type:

Yeah . . . this isn't so good. Sort of looks like a bird —
I'm thinking a cardinal.

The only way I've found to make the manicule look good is to enlarge it to a ridiculous degree. Here it is in glorious 100 pt:

Of course, if it only looks good at large sizes, using it on a regular basis is probably more trouble than it's worth. A shame for those of us who want to clothe our websites in ostentatious 19th-century trappings.

Stay tuned for Wednesday's edition — we'll be discussing the difference between general nonfiction and informational texts. Thanks for reading!

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