The Asterisk (Trust Me About Grammar, Not About Baseball)

Today's topic is the asterisk — Barry Bonds's least favorite punctuation mark.

Mignon Fogarty
Episode #070

How to Use an Asterisk in Citations

They also note that if you have to include both citations and substantive comments in a document, you should use symbols for footnoted comments. You use the symbols in a specific order that starts with the asterisk and then continues with the dagger, double dagger, section mark, parallels, and number sign. If you need more symbols, you start over in the sequence and double each symbol; for example, double asterisk, double dagger, double double dagger, etcetera (6).

I couldn't find anything to back this up, but I have a theory that when used alone an asterisk has a more negative connotation than a number or a letter. Think about advertisements: the asterisk always indicates some limitation of what seems like a great offer. Also, when linguists want to show examples of incorrect words or sentences, they mark them with an asterisk. And finally, thinking back to Barry Bonds, I'm sure the proposed asterisk next to his name in the record book isn't something he's looking forward to seeing.

Don't forget to check out Money Girl, who talks about topics like FDIC insurance and what happens if your bank goes out of business. She's one of the many hosts that make up the Quick and Dirty Tips network.

The Ad Council's Don't Be an Asterisk campaign.

* As noted in the comments, Barry Bonds just broke the record for career home runs, not the record for most runs in one season.


  1. Nason, N. “Bonds Makes an Asterisk of Himself,” The Australian. August 09, 2007, http://urltea.com/1ee3 (accessed August 9, 2007)
  2. Wilbon, M. “Tarnished Records Deserve an Asterisk,” The Washington Post. Saturday, December 4, 2004; p. D10, http://urltea.com/1ee5 (accessed August 9, 2007).
  3. Strumpf, M. and Douglas, A. The Grammar Bible. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2004,  p. 450.
  4. Garner, B. A. Garner's Modern American Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003, p. 70.
  5. Shaw, H. Punctuate It Right. New York: Harper Paperbacks, 1993, p. 46.
  6. The Chicago Manual of Style. Fourteenth Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993, p. 420, p. 505.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

You May Also Like...

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.