Old English/Punctuation

< Old English

It should be noted that Modern English punctuation standards did not exist in Old English, so any modern-type punctuation you see in Old English texts has been added in recently by an editor.

Most Old English writers either did not really punctuate or only punctuated lightly. One of the more popular punctuation marks was the interpunct ("·"), which could be used for many kinds of pauses, including those sometimes represented in Modern English by commas, periods, colons, and semi-colons. Another method was to use a low, period-like punctuation to represent a short pause, a middle-height dot to represent a slightly longer pause, and a high dot to represent a long pause. However, this could sometimes be difficult to read - it was not always easy to distinguish between middle-height and high dots.

Capitalization was often or normally used at the beginning of a sentence, but not usually for anything else. Occasionally it was used when referring to God.

Most Old English writers spaced their words reasonably well (not necessarily absolutely consistently), but some wrote many together with no spaces, and others wrote an excess of spaces.

There were a variety of abbreviations used in Old English writing, including:

  • A g with a macron above to for the common syllable "ge-"
  • A vowel with a macron above it instead of writing out a nasal consonant that would follow the vowel (e.g. "ū" instead of "-um-" or "-un-")
  • A symbol that was like the letter thorn ("þ") but with a slash through the upper half, to represent the common word "þæt"
  • A symbol symbol that looked like the written number character "7" used to represent the common word "and"
  • Runes were rarely used instead instead of the entire word that they were named after