Today I noticed, that in the past decades, until today, I never typed § (Shift+3) even once in my life intentionally as part of a sentence. However @ (Alt Gr+q) and € (Alt Gr+E) I need fairly often in comparison.

Now I'm wondering why that rather special character was placed so prominently, while useful common characters are made difficult to access. I first thought it may be a legacy of typewriters, but the QWERTY layout features @ rather prominently on the number row and doesn't have § on there.

Not sure if this is the right place to ask this, but I couldn't think of a better one.

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    In case that you are not aware that this sign is used much more in German than in English: german.stackexchange.com/q/53732/3237
    – Carsten S
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 8:38
  • Maybe I should have added that I am a German. Outside of specialized professions, I cannot see any German using this character at all during their lifetimes.
    – Ocean
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 11:47
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    I guessed that you are German. I just thought that that could mean that you take it for granted that § is often used to refer to parts of a law or contract and not realise that this may not be true in English. If you consider uses for typewriters, this seems like a symbol that is desirable to have. I actually find it more interesting that @ was included on typewriters and later in ASCII, as that predates its most common contemporary uses.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 12:36
  • If it wasn't featured, it would probably not have been chosen for that use case. But yes, it is hard to believe that English uses the section sign even more sparingly, since it is already almost nonexistent in German. I wouldn't even be surprised if most Germans didn't know it was on the keyboard and resorted to copy and paste from Wikipedia in case they needed it.
    – Ocean
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 14:04
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    I somehow get the feeling that I am considerably older than you are ;) I believe that for a long time the primary use case for typewriters was business correspondence. I do not find it surprising at all to have § on a German keyboard. Would I prefer @ or €? Sure. (And when you mentioned €, my first thought was that we needed iso-8859-15 for that.)
    – Carsten S
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


You find some background in Wikipedia (in German). The respective DIN 2112 standard has its roots apparently in 1928 and the pictured shows the paragraph already in the number shift, even if further right.

Mail addresses were not invented yet (Euro had even longer to wait) @ was chosen for mail, because it was already present on teletype keyboards, but had little use in real life.

Germany has a Prussian heritage including a hang for law and order, resulting possibly in an increased demand for paragraphs.

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    Maybe it's also helpful to look at the main customer groups for typewriters - especially, for typewriters with standardized keyboard layouts. I haven't done any deeper research, but I'd assume the main customer groups would be administration offices, legal offices, larger commercial offices and the like. And those would clearly use the paragraph sign in their everyday work - to refer to laws, to draft contracts and so on. If the typewriter had a standardized keyboard layout, it would also be easier to switch typing staff in and out. Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 9:12
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    The paragraph sign is ¶, § is called the section sign, as far as I know.
    – Ocean
    Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 14:05
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    "Germany has a Prussian heritage including a hang for law and order, resulting possibly in an increased demand for paragraphs." - the implied claim that this has anything to do with the § sign as such is questionable without further evidence. A fairly random check of legal codes from California, for instance, shows that the amount of structured text is certainly of a dimension that warrants paragraphs. They just do not use the § sign, instead spelling out terms like "division", "part", "chapter", and "article". Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 19:33

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