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I need a symbol in my navigation to represent the legal portions of a web application (disclaimer, imprint, and so on). I thought that it would be appropriate to use the § character; my customer agrees with me.

The app is intended for an international audience, all of whom will speak English from fluent to native speaker. The application interface is in English only. And after noticing it's not even on the QWERTY keyboard layout, I started asking myself if this sign is generally recognized to represent law or legal matters, or if this is a cultural symbol only.

Can I count on recognition if I use section sign to denote legal matters?

Edit: The reason why I am asking about it at all is that we are in Germany, and this sign is the first thing which springs to mind when thinking about law symbols here. Everybody I asked agreed unanimously. I almost didn't post the question, thinking that it's too obvious that it is universal, because it is so pervasive in the cultures I have seen. It's like using a ! for attention.

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    It is the section sign. Compare with a search for legal symbol on G images. – Amphiteót Nov 5 '14 at 12:24
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    Why did you think that the "section" symbol would be appropriate? – Andrew Leach Nov 5 '14 at 14:03
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    Because it is called a paragraph sign in several countries. In Denmark it is immediately recognised as a legal paragraph: §1, §2 - section sign in Wikipedia points at da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paragraftegn in Danish – mplungjan Nov 5 '14 at 14:05
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    @mplungjan That rationale ought to be in the question, perhaps along with why a symbol such as balance-scales -- which are widely used in legal signage and iconography, at least in the UK -- were not chosen. – Andrew Leach Nov 5 '14 at 14:27
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    There's nothing to signify "legal" in the § symbol that I know of or a reasonable justification of it. It may lead to some confusion. – Kris Nov 5 '14 at 14:46
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I associate the section symbol with statutes and legal codes because it's commonly used (in connection with a numbering system, as in §1.1.1) to identify specific sections or subsections of a law or code—but I'm not sure I would have recognized it as such before I attended law school.

For most people in the United States, the two most immediately recognizable symbols of law are probably a pair of balance scales (with or without a blindfolded figure of Justice holding them) and a gavel. I think that a simple graphic of either scales or a gavel would be far more widely recognized by nonlawyers in this country as signifying law-related content than the § symbol would be.

  • Yeah, I think the section symbol in legal contexts is primarily there for the section association, not the legal association. – Lynn Nov 10 '14 at 5:07
9

This would be inappropriate: the symbol simply means a section, and is used in many contexts outside of the law.

I don't think there is any common symbol for legal matters. The closest would be a balance scales. Do you need a symbol? Why not just write 'Legal'?

2

In short, no. It's just a section symbol; it's not even used that much outside of the US even for that purpose.

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I don't think I am knowledgeable about it all that much. This may be relevant, though:

Red legal citation symbol (shows § in graphic)

Relevant keywords for this picture: articles, citation, clause, clauses, close, close-ups, closeup, closeups, cut, cut-out, cutout, cutouts, inboard, indoor, indoors, interior, internal, justice, law, laws, legislation, legislations, legislative, legislature, legislatures, lives, nobody, one, out, outs, paragraphs, photo, Red, red, section, separate, separately, shot, shots, single, still, stills, Stills, studio, symbol, symbols, up, ups.
[emphasis added]

Tradebit.com

  • 1
    This doesn't answer the question. It should be a comment. – Erik Kowal Dec 1 '14 at 6:35

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