The asterisk is the little star symbol above the “8” key on your keyboard. The word comes from a Greek word meaning “ little star.”


It is a symbol (*) used in text as a pointer to an annotation or footnote.


Asterisk                  asterisk for blog                                                       tick



Asterix       asterix                                                        cross









Hyphens and Dashes

Hyphens and Dashes

It’s easy to get confused between the hyphen (-) and the dash (–).

The Hyphen

Where should the hyphen be put to make these clearer?

Father to be stabbed to death in bar

30 odd members

Old furniture dealer

A little known city

Recovered the sofa

David Crystal describes the hyphen as “the most unpredictable of marks.” It can however remove ambiguity from a sentence (see examples above).

A hyphen is the shorter mark that is often used to link two or more words together. It can also be seen at the end of a line to break up a whole word that won’t fit into the space.

Some hyphenated words:

user-friendly                 up-to-date          jump-start           well-known 

back-to-back                part-time            next-to-last         short-term

The Dash

The Dash is the longer line used as punctuation in sentences – often instead of a comma or brackets.

Trump won the election—granted, Clinton got the popular vote—but he won.

Geeky fact

There are actually two types of dash, the en-dash and the em-dash. The en-dash is the shorter version of the dash, named en-dash as it should be the same length as the letter ‘n’.

To insert an en-dash, try typing:     1993 then space, then – then 1995 then space. It will convert to 1993 – 1995.

To insert an em-dash, type ‘Something’ then –, then ‘Something’ again with no gaps, Word will automatically change it to Something—Something.



Ellipsis …

Ellipsis is a set of three dots (called periods in US) to indicate:

(it is a SIN to use more than three and be careful not to overuse like the exclamation mark!)

1.   An omission such as a portion of quoted material.

2.   It also indicates a pause in speech.


In informal writing ellipsis can be used to show a trailing off (or pause) in thought.


“If only I’d revised…well it’s too late to do more now.”  Alice walked into the exam hall.

Ellipsis can also be used to show hesitation.


“I did revise…well, a bit…OK, I watched Eastenders….but then I revised.”


Interestingly, if you type… the computer will recognise ellipsis whereas if you type. . . with spaces between the dots, a Word document will see this as a grammatical error underlining it in green.


Computing even recognises ellipsis rather than just being three dots: ‘Rather than typing three full stops ellipsis actually has its own glyph as the … HTML entity.’

Ellipses (plural) can also be used for omitting information in quotations.  There are different styles which are explained here:


Apostrophe of Omission

Can also be called apostrophe of contraction.


Many thanks to Serena Thompson for this week’s Literacy Focus.

Apostrophes for omission (show that letters are missin’)

Sometimes, writers try to show accent using apostrophes in this way:

Some people in Dorset, say wa’er.                                     The desert is ‘ot.

Do + not

they + are

Don’t be afraid of contractions in language; they’re just two words squeezed together

The apostrophe replaces the missing letter(s):

I am = I’m They would = They’d who is = who’s you + will = you’ll (pronouns + verbs)

is + not = isn’t can + not = can’t   (negation)

student + is

student + is

This student’s pleased, because they know how to use apostrophes.

Possessive Apostrophes

Many thanks to Mrs Glennie for this week’s Literacy Focus on the possessive apostrophe.


Rule One:

Use an apostrophe and ‘-s’ to show ownership.

The dog’s dinner.                            The child’s ball.

If the word is singular and ends in ‘s’, you still add an apostrophe and ‘-s’


Rule Two:

Add an apostrophe to most plural nouns.

If the apostrophe is plural and doesn’t end in ‘s’, follow the normal rule and add an apostrophe and ‘s’.

The children’s ball.


If the plural noun already ends with ‘s’, just add an apostrophe to the end.

The wolves’ pack.


The position of the apostrophe is important because it can change the meaning of the sentence:


The girl’s books.                                       The girls’ books.

(one girl)                                                    (more than one girl)





  1. The babys name was very unusual.
  2. The childrens competition was won by a five year old.
  3. The babies cries could not be ignored.
  4. The employees Christmas party was a great success.
  5. Last months profits were disappointing.
  6. Martins homework was excellent.
  7. The books pages were dog eared.
  8. Her sisters new car was very expensive.
  9. Two weeks holiday was over in a flash.
  10. The students attitude to their work was excellent.



Featured image from TES.