While this is loosely graphic-design related, when doing design for some kind of annotations, one have to work with symbols used as 'reference markers', such as 1 in foo 1. When you need to discuss the decisions regarding these, you may want to use a distinctive word.

But how are, or should, these be called? These are usually numbers, however, this won't make them different from exponents; and saying 'numbers' is not very distinctive when the content body is dealing with or using numbers, too. They could be referred as numbers in the upper index or superscript, however, they not essentially need to be a superscript (especially if you try to experiment with something new in your design). In some cases 'reference markers' as numbers can also be a bad idea, eg. annotating a math text.

How should these be called? Numbers? Numbers in the superscript? Reference-mark symbols? Annotation symbols? Is there a term for these?

  • +1 it's also a relevant typography terminology question. May 1, 2013 at 15:04
  • Well, you already found a name: “reference marker”. I think that if you use that, people will understand what you mean.
    – svick
    May 1, 2013 at 16:11
  • Also, aren't references usually written [1]? I think ¹ is used for footnotes, not references.
    – svick
    May 1, 2013 at 16:13
  • @svick hm, I think I accidentally merged the meaning of references with (that of) footnotes. Because they are noted similarly; even if they are used for different reasons / in different situations. (And their content is actually different, often.)
    – n611x007
    May 1, 2013 at 20:16

2 Answers 2


The only problem I see with "footnote" and "reference" is that these are slightly restrictive words. "Annotation" is the all-encompassing term for ALL the types of marks you are referring to: footnotes, endnotes, corrections, and captions are all annotations.

So seeing as how you want to avoid over specifying, "annotation marks" is the least leading phrase with respect to type, means, placement etc., and if you want to avoid using words like "numbers" or "letters" try "glyphs."

"What glyph(s) shall we use for marking annotations?"

"How should we style the annotation marks?"


Wikipedia offers 'footnote marker', and no other term under the regular markers' individual pages (like asterisk, dagger, pilcrow and section sign). I guess there is no official collective term for them.

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