One of the reasons I might like to practice in the United States is that I’d get to use the squiggly in my documents. Otherwise known as the section symbol or mark, § is one of my favourite typographical elements, having an elegance and symmetry that please me in a way that the mere “s.” we Canadians use to denote a section of a statute simply cannot. It is, literally, twice (as good as) our section character, being two esses, one above the other. Feel free to sprinkle your comments in Slaw with this lovely mark: easy to do: simply type in & followed by #167 followed by ; with no spaces, the code that will, like magic, turn into a squiggly.
Not too far down my pick of the glyphs is the pilcrow, if only for the name alone. Its humbler appellation is the paragraph mark or symbol: ¶ (code & #182 ; again with no spaces). This we do get to use from time to time in the practice of law here, thankfully. Now lots of folks think that it’s a backwards P, hence standing for paragraph. Not so. It seems that it dates back to medieval manuscripts and perhaps earlier, where a modified C standing for the Latin capitulum denoted a chapter or a significant breaking point. The modification consisted of drawing two vertical lines through the letter, which produced something very like a backwards P.
The typographers Hoefler & Frere-Jones have written a good small piece on the pilcrow and have illustrated it with some graphics showing how that symbol appears in various type faces, one of which, as you see to the right, makes clear the pilcrow’s origins in capitulum. (Click on the image to see more pilcrows in action.)
Though you’ll see a lot of § and ¶ in legal work, it’s unlikely that you’ll come upon a gasper. The exclamation mark — ! — also known in the newspaper trade as a screamer, a startler and a dog’s cock, popular though it is in ordinary life, stays well clear of law because, I’d say, it’s job is to convey emotion or at least strong feeling where it’s feared that words themselves will fail. You might think of it as the first emoticon. And as we all know, law is devoid of strong feeling. The annoying thing, though, is that I’m not able to check out my guess that the bang is banned in law as easily as I might because search engines don’t regard punctuation marks as fit search terms. So if you spot a screamer in a statute or judgment, do let me know. If the exclamation mark appeals to you, have a look at a charming article about it in the Guardian, “The joy of exclamation marks!” by Stuart Jeffries, and don’t neglect the comments on it.