In typography, some text editors will offer the option to display "invisible" or "formatting" characters such as these:

enter image description here

(from this page)

Do these have a name?

I mean, of course you could call them "bullet" (the first one) or "tab" symbol (the second one), etc, but I am thinking that they might have a special name for this very particular typographical use.

The only one I could find while searching through Apple's Character Viewer is "Pilcrow" (the "paragraph break" sign), but its Wikipedia page and an online search didn't help me in fining the names of the other ones when used as formatting symbols (I'm especially intrigued by the symbol used to represent the Nonbreaking space, which looks like a bullet with a circumflex accent).

  • So you're essentially looking for an alternative name for each hidden character?
    – Joonas
    May 27, 2016 at 6:47
  • Or their "official" name. I believe if Apple and Microsoft (Google etc) and other word processing softs include these characters in their apps they have to have a name at some point (although they might change from app to app) May 27, 2016 at 14:20

2 Answers 2


From your question, the general category of characters or symbols that you are referring to are called Whitespace Characters.

Whitespace characters are the representation of any character that causes a horizontal or vertical spacing change in typography.

The symbols themselves are called markup symbols and stem from proofreading editor markup symbol sets. See the graphic below for one of many examples on the web of proofreading markup.

In the case of the characters you are asking about specifically. These are a symbolic set that Apple chose to represent the whitespace markup for their system. Different OSs have chosen to represent some of these characters differently. This is typical of systems that don't understand where these symbols came from in the first place.

The second one in specific is the Nonbreaking space, and was chosen because the classic proofreading markup for a space was a #. Since the # character is a real character and used in computer designations, a newer character had to be created. On some OSs this is represented as a larger dot with a smaller dot above it, rather than the caret or circumfex symbol.
enter image description here
In terms of old school typography the character is the Em Space. The em space is a nonbreaking space equal to the width of a typeface's point size. It was derived from old typesetting where a blank metal block who's width is that of a capital M was placed in a row of text. This is also where the HTML/CSS designation for an "em" character sizing comes from.

Proofreading Markup

  • ok the formatting is horrible please feel free to fix it.
    – joojaa
    May 27, 2016 at 6:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.