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The typographical symbol dagger (†) has several meanings. Possibly its most common use is as a footnote marker.

According to You Have a Point There: A Guide to Punctuation and Its Allies (Partridge, 1953), when it is used for this purpose, it must be used for second footnotes only; the first footnote should be indicated by an asterisk (*), the third a double dagger (‡) and further footnotes other symbols or numbers.

Where does Patridge's rule fall on a scale of one to ten, where one is "this is just one guy's random opinion" and ten is "this is a widely accepted rule of English and any deviation from it is unarguably incorrect"?

This question was inspired by this Meta Stack Overflow question about the use of daggers on Stack Exchange site FAQ pages.

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Shows you didn't check out CMoS in your research before asking. – Kris Jan 5 '12 at 5:28
@Kris I think you need a subscription for it. – Mahnax Jan 5 '12 at 19:26
@Kris, although I had heard of the Chicago guide before, I didn't know that it was considered authoritative (and I certainly didn't have a subscription to it). The resources I did check didn't address this issue at all, although I could have looked harder. – Pops Jan 5 '12 at 23:43

3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The dagger (also known as an obelisk) is properly used for the second footnote, the asterisk is for the first, and the double dagger is for the third. This is supported by several websites:

And so on. The general consensus is that the asterisk is first, the dagger is second, and the double dagger is third. I give him a 9.

Edit: I looked at the Chicago Manual of Style Online, and they gave this information:

Where symbols are used, the sequence is as follows:

  1. * (asterisk; but do not use if p values occur in the table; see 3.78)
  2. † (dagger)
  3. ‡ (double dagger)
  4. § (section mark)
  5. || (parallels)
  6. # (number sign, or pound)
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The Chicago Manual of Style link will most likely not be viewable for those without subscriptions. – Mahnax Jan 5 '12 at 0:22
I would say more generally that you would avoid an asterisk as a footnote if it has other uses that might confuse, not just p values. For example, if you're using it to denote ungrammaticality, then I would jump straight to the dagger. – Brett Reynolds Jan 5 '12 at 1:22
@BrettReynolds There is most likely more on the topic in the full article, I just removed the most relevant bits. – Mahnax Jan 5 '12 at 1:23
@Mahnax 'removed the most relevant'? – Kris Jan 5 '12 at 5:26
@Kris I mean that I took the most relevant pieces of information from the Chicago Manual of Style, not that I removed the most relevant things from my answer. Ooops. – Mahnax Jan 5 '12 at 5:27

Grammar Girl offers the same advice, citing Chicago Manual of Style. She writes:

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.

Chicago Manual is pretty much a ten on your scale.

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If you ever get to triple asterisks, you're using too many footnotes. – Peter Shor Jan 5 '12 at 0:59
@PeterShor: Surely too many ***! footnotes? – TimLymington Feb 3 '13 at 0:28

While I generally agree with the other answers I think you have to take the context of your writing into consideration. For instance, while writing about computer related topics asterisk tends to have special meaning. Similarly parallels looks very much like two pipes, which also has special meaning.

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I think that would enter into the question of whether to use this footnoting system at all, rather than into how to use it correctly. – MετάEd Jan 5 '12 at 16:15
I agree with @MetaEd, you may be better off simply using numbered notes. – Hugo Mar 28 '12 at 20:36

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