Special Characters

Q. I’m preparing a critical edition of a seventeenth-century poem that has over seventy (numbered) stanzas, and I’m wondering if there is a special symbol to designate, say, “stanza 64.” Paragraphs have the pilcrow ¶, and sections are marked by §, but is there a symbol for stanza that I’ve missed?

A. None that we know of. The closest we could find from Unicode is the paragraphus mark, Unicode 2E4D, listed as one of the marks of “historic punctuation” in Unicode’s chart for Supplemental Punctuation.

Here’s a snippet from that chart, which says the mark “indicates the beginning of a paragraph, section, stanza, or proposition”:

Screenshot from Unicode’s chart for supplemental punctuation (version 15.0) showing 2E4D, paragraphus mark, which is shaped like a capital F but with the second horizontal stroke angled upward to form a triangle with the top stroke.

The paragraphus mark was added to Unicode in 2018, following a proposal submitted in 2016 by the UC Berkeley Script Encoding Initiative that cited the need “for support of medieval European linguistic and literary research and publication.” It hasn’t yet (as of April 2023) been added to more than a few specialized fonts (which you’d need to install before using the mark).

But the idea is to enable researchers to transcribe the mark; on its own it doesn’t mean stanza (or paragraph or section or proposition). Fortunately, there’s an abbreviation you can use instead: st. (see the table of scholarly abbreviations at CMOS 10.42). Or simply spell out stanza.