What Is The Pound Symbol ( # ) And How Do You Use It?

Time to learn about the pound symbol! #educational

Although the pound symbol isn’t used often in formal writing, the average social media user is likely very familiar with this particular character. If you have avoided social media, you might wonder what this strange symbol means or if it even has a use in writing at all.

What is a pound symbol?

The pound symbol (#), also known by many other names that include pound sign, number sign, hash mark, and hashtag, is a typographical symbol that is rarely used in formal writing. However, this symbol is used often in informal writing, specifically on social media.

Note: the name pound symbol is also used to refer to the symbol (£) used to represent a denomination of British currency called the pound or pound sterling. We won’t be looking at this particular symbol, but don’t be surprised if you see the name pound symbol used to refer to it.

✏️Example usage of the pound symbol

The following examples show some ways that the pound symbol could be used:

  • Yay! The Wildcats are ranked #2 in the country!
  • You will need a calculator to solve problem #7 on the exam.
  • The catchy pop song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Going to #Disneyland tomorrow! So excited! #vacation 

When do you use a pound symbol?

The pound symbol is rarely ever used in formal writing. Typically, most writers will opt for alternative words or abbreviations rather than use a pound symbol. However, the pound symbol is a popular symbol among social media users.

Substitute for the word number

One fairly common use for the pound symbol is to represent the word number, and it can be used for this reason if word count is a concern. However, this usage is typically avoided in formal writing unless the symbol is commonly used in a specific title of something, such as a musical composition. Here are some examples of the pound symbol used to represent the word number:

  • Quarterback Jeff Jeffreys wears #5 (number 5), the same number he wore in college.
  • She poked me with a #2 (Number Two) pencil.
  • The orchestra performed Mozart’s Symphony #25 (Number 25).
  • What is the answer to questions #7 and #9 (number 7 and number 9)?

Speaking of numbers, how much do you know about countable nouns?

Social media

On social media, the pound symbol is commonly referred to as the hashtag. The hashtag is used with words or phrases on social media to tag a message, photo, video, or other content as being related to a certain topic. For example, a person might label a photo of the Eiffel Tower with #France or #Paris. The word hashtag is used both to refer to the pound symbol as well as a tag using a pound symbol.

Hashtags allow social media users to easily search for content that (probably) has something to do with a certain topic or subject. For example, a fan of Star Wars could search the hashtags #StarWars, #Chewbacca, or #LukeSkywalker on social media to find content related to Star Wars.

Here are some examples of how the pound symbol might be used on social media:

  • Ugh! Final exams tomorrow! #cramsession
  • Been stuck in line for two hours… #DMV #boring
  • I think the crows in my yard are plotting against me. #CrowConspiracy

Take this quiz to see how much you know about the pound symbol and other typographical symbols.

Try Grammar Coach™ #informational #GrammarGoals

Not sure if you’re using the pound symbol, comma, or em dash correctly? Check your writing on Thesaurus.com’s Grammar Coach™. This writing tool uses machine learning technology uniquely designed to catch grammar and spelling errors. Its Synonym Swap will find the best nouns, adjectives, and more to help say what you really mean, guiding you toward clearer, stronger, writing.

Continue the discussion of symbols by reviewing the asterisk.

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