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For example, when some long prose passage ends, this appears:

* * *

Then some new prose passage begins. The three asterisks dividing the two prose sections are understood to divide the two sections into non-continuous temporal spaces.

I am interested in knowing if there is a specific name to describe symbolic or graphical markings that are meant to suggest temporal discontinuity.

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Are you asking specifically about three-asterisk breaks, or the more general class of breaks that also includes short lines, single asterisks, and other graphic symbols? –  Monica Cellio Sep 1 '11 at 21:54
@Monica: edited question to clarify object of my inquiry –  g33kz0r Sep 1 '11 at 21:58
+1 This is something I have wondered somewhere in the back of my mind. –  Daniel Sep 1 '11 at 22:01
Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/26385/… –  z7sg Ѫ Sep 2 '11 at 11:00

2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

It seems that these are called "section breaks" (sometimes "scene breaks"):

Sections are visually separated from each other with a section break, typically consisting of extra space between the sections. They are a concern in the process of typography and pagination, where it may be desirable to have a page break follow a section break for the sake of aesthetics or readability. In fiction, sections often represent scenes, and accordingly the space separating them is sometimes also called a scene break.

enter image description here

The bottom left of the image shows a section break. A section break doesn't necessarily need to be only three asterisks, although that is the most common. In this blog, it shows that the section breaks could be hash signs as well.

Alternatively, it could be an "asterism" :

In typography, an asterism, from the Greek astēr ('star'),1 is a rarely used, and "nearly obsolete",2 symbol consisting of three asterisks placed in a triangle (⁂). It is used to, "indicate minor breaks in text,

Later on the text from the link, it seems that an asterism is usually written like " * * *" :

Often, this symbol is replaced with three, sometimes more, consecutive asterisks or dots.

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Hah, it's really funny that you linked to a wikipedia page including LaTeX code, b/c my reason for asking this question in the first place was that I was in the middle of writing a business letter, and I wanted to find the LaTeX code for asterism or whatever it turns out to be called. –  g33kz0r Sep 1 '11 at 22:02
+1 @Thursagen I'm leaning toward Scene Break. Thanks for the blog link, very interesting stuff. I'll leave this up for a bit to see if anything else pops up. –  g33kz0r Sep 1 '11 at 22:06
I've also seen scene breaks marked by more complicated typographical elements; the name for these might be fleurons (although it seems they're more often just called "ornaments.") –  Peter Shor Sep 2 '11 at 3:15
@Peter Shor yes, by all means, I have seen things other than asterisks as well. Good point. –  g33kz0r Sep 2 '11 at 15:59

In typography, an asterism, from the Greek astēr ('star'),1 is a rarely used, and "nearly obsolete",2 symbol consisting of three asterisks placed in a triangle (⁂). It is used to, "indicate minor breaks in text.

An even more ancient name is MUL -- from the cuneiform (oldest writing). In Babylonian language 'istari' meant god or goddess, though it could also mean star, heaven or sun/planet. The asterisk and the use of three as a triangle are all original to that cuneiform writing system as a pre-determinative sign indicating stars and the names of constellations. The single 'asterisk' often denoted the proper names of gods and goddesses of Mesopotamian tradition. ("Secrets of Sumerian Language" -Joshua Free)

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