Asterisk is one of those words that you just can’t say ten times fast. Try it. I’ll wait…
How’d it go? Turn any heads? Get any “bless you”s?
There are risks to the asterisk*—and not only in saying it correctly with any amount of speed. Asterisks muffle curses, and they are often followed by daggers. And if that doesn’t sound like the start of a really bad grammarian murder mystery, I don’t know what is.
When to use an asterisk
- When replacing letters in words (such as curse words) or names you don’t want to spell out (e.g., “wow, what a grammar b**** that Kris is” or “From your secret crush, K***”)
- When pointing a reader to further information, as in a footnote.
- When showing the passage of time in the case of a section break in a story.
- I’m sure there’s a good kissing emoticon out there with an asterisk, right?
Where to put an asterisk
Asterisks always follow punctuation marks, with one exception. Dashes (as show above, if you were paying attention) always go after the asterisk.
Asterisks in footnotes
If you are using an asterisk to give your reader more information (or some fun fine print), the extra info should always appear at the bottom of the same page. In other words, asterisks are for footnotes, not endnotes. Of course, if you have multiple footnotes within a single page, asterisks are just the start. The official order of footnotes is:
That second one is called a dagger. Don’t you love it? I always thought it was a cross, but no, it’s much more sinister, isn’t it?
To be fair, the first three footnote marks are fairly standard; however, on occasion, you might find an asterisk enthusiast starting with *, **, and *** before continuing on to the dagger. (The United Nations, interestingly enough, really likes asterisks.)
Is this everything you’ve ever wanted to know about asterisks and more? Did you stop reading by this point, and you’re just determinedly mumbling “asterisk, asterisk, asterisk” under your breath? It’s okay. I don’t mind at all.
Happy writing, everyone!
*And by all means, please make sure you are pronouncing it correctly. It rhymes with “risk” or “tsk, tsk…”