Spanish punctuation marks

Spanish punctuation marks are easy to type if you have a Spanish keyboard that boasts crucial symbols like:   ¿   ¡   °   ñ   ´   ¨   `   ^   ~

I used to have a Spanish keyboard, but now I have a normal American one with the keys reconfigured for the Latin American keyboard. Life is so much easier this way: typing accents on letters is effortless, I know where ñ is at all times (under my right pinky), and should I decide to get fancy and begin my questions and exclamations with their proper punctuative introductions, I’ve got easy access to the correct upside-down squiggles. Highly recommended!

I can use Spanish punctuation marks, diacritical marks and typographical marks like nobody’s business (I remember that one of my ex’s first piropos to me was him marveling that I always put the accents on the right words), but I never really learned what they were called. I use them for my purposes and get on with it, but I had never stopped to ask them their names and how they were doing. Then I happened to ask Mónica yesterday how you say exclamation mark in Spanish, thinking it would be something like signo de exclamación. No. (Well, you can say that, but it’s not as common) Signo de admiración. ¡¡¡ !!! Get out! I said to her, doing my best Elaine Benes imitation. Admiration mark?!?! I seriously almost fell out of my chair. Admiration mark! Yes. Admiration mark. In Spanish, admiración means not only admiration but also amazement. This was news to me. Also, I found it adorable. I consequently decided to brush up on my other punctuation terms in Spanish and share the bounty. I had already picked up most of these sobre la marcha, but there were still some gaps.

Signos de puntuación, signos diacríticos y signos tipográficos en español

Spanish punctuation marks, diacritical marks and typographical marks

   .        Punto Period, full stop (UK)

  …       Puntos suspensivos Ellipsis, dot dot dot

   ,        Coma (f) Comma

   ;           Punto y coma Semicolon

   :           Dos puntos Colon

   –           Guion/guión Hyphen

   –       Raya Dash

   _       Guion/guión bajo, raya al piso Underscore

   /        Barra oblicua/inclinada, diagonal, “slash” Slash

« » “ ”  Comillas Quotation marks (little commas!), inverted commas

  ¡  !      Signos de admiración, signos de exclamación Exclamation                            marks/points

 ¿  ?      Signos de interrogación Question marks

 (   )      Paréntesis (m) Parentheses, brackets (UK)

 [   ]      Corchetes (m) Brackets, square brackets (UK)

   ´           Tilde (f)  Accent mark

   ¨        Diéresis  Dieresis, umlaut, two dots

   ‘         Apóstrofe/apóstrofo Apostrophe

   *        Asterisco, estrellita Asterisk, star

   #       Numeral, signo de número, almohadilla, cuadradillo,                          gato Number sign, pound sign, hash

  @       Arroba At, at sign

aa        Vergulilla, tilde Tilde  (mostly seen in ñ), squiggly line

Any other good ones that I missed? I would say that the most useful ones for me in my Spanish-speaking experience have been arroba and punto. Any guess as to why? That’s right–for giving out my email address. Also, the phrase entre comillas is handy for the English phrase “quote unquote”/ “so-called.” And, yes, people do the same wiggly thing with their second and third fingers to indicate this, as least in my experience. Happy punctuating!

_________________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with these words? Had you heard them before? How have you heard them used? Where? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with? 

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13 responses to “Spanish punctuation marks

  1. { } llaves
    ~ circunflejo
    (italics) itálicas, cursivas
    $ signo de pesos (sólo en México, creo, por eso de que tenemos pesos por moneda)

    Porcierto, cuando dicta alguien a alguien más los signos en un texto, generalmente dice: “Abre paréntesis; cierra paréntesis; abre admiración; cierra signos de admiración; abre comillas; inicia cita -para las comillas también” para indicar que se usa un signo determinado. No más para complementar :)

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  2. Qué es un circunflejo? Sabes? Yo no tengo ni idea.

    Gracias por el comentario y por aclarar más el asunto!

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  5. El acento circunflejo no existe en español, pero si en francés. Es el signo ^ como en château (castillo), île (isla)… Se puede encontrar en todos los vocales: â, ê, î, ô, û. Usualmente es el signo de una S antigua perdida con el tiempo.

    En cuanto a la tilde, aprendi durante mis clases de español que era el signo ~.
    Fue una gran sorpresa en Colombia ver que “tilde” se usaba por los acentos tónicos y que mi tilde se llamaba en realidad virgulilla.

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    • ¿Virgulilla? Hmm, primera vez que escucho esa palabra. La verdad, nunca me había puesto a pensar antes en el uso distinto de las palabras acento y tilde, pero ahora que lo he averiguado un poco veo que son sinónimos y que su uso depende de la región. Sí, creo que en Colombia es mucho más común decir que una palabra lleva tilde, aunque eso también se dice en muchas otras partes. ¡Gracias por enseñarme algo nuevo hoy!

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  6. What is the sign ~ ?

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    • Hi Wesley. Easteban says above that it’s circunflejo, but then I learned from Stephane that that’s wrong- a circunflejo (circumflex) is this symbol: ^

      ~ above an n as in ñ can be called a tilde or a virgulilla. Some other regional options that I found include cola de chancho and el rabito/palito de la eñe.

      Even in English, it’s called a tilde– I didn’t know that. I would have called it a squiggly line. It’s also used in fields such as math. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilde

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  8. I think I learned some of this in my Spanish class. I don’t think I could have recalled them, though; this is a refresher!

    By the way, I needed to use some accented letters for French too, but didn’t have a French keyboard. A friend introduced me to the US-International keyboard layout, which pretty much does all of this (including the Spanish ñ, ¿ and ¡! ) Now I use it all the time :)

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    • Interesting- I’ve never used that layout. When my French gets good enough and I have someone to write to in the language, I may need to! I bought my current laptop in the U.S., but I configured the Spanish keyboard. Very confusing for others to use since what appears on the keys is not actually what they produce when pressed :)

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  9. Hello!
    Could you please tell me what `slash – /` is used for in Spanish? I need to translate in English the sentence `En ocasiones los niños/as disléxicos tienen severos problemas para establecer la conversión grafema/fonema…`, and I can’t figure out what punctuation symbols to use in English and how to structure my sentence. At would rather say that the first slash shouldn’t even be there, but I’m not sure. What do you think?

    Thank you.

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    • Hi Madalina,

      In the niños/as part, it’s just trying to include both niños and niñas. So, boys and girls. Or, you could just write children in English, which would take care of both genders. You’re right, though- that’s an awkward way of writing it. Sometimes people write niñ@s, but personally I like that even less.

      Grafema/fonema is standard slash use, and grapheme/phoneme is perfectly fine in English. But it looks like it’s probably being used here to mean from grapheme into phoneme.

      Children with dyslexia occasionally have great difficulty in converting graphemes into phonemes.

      I hope that helps!

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