Comic strips often use grawlix to show that a character is saying or thinking something “unprintable”—often to express frustration or surprise. It can also be used on social media to hide profanity. An instance of grawlix can appear alone or as part of a sentence.
Uses of grawlix
- At signs @
- Exclamation points !
- Question marks ?
- Ampersands &
- Hash symbols #
- Dollar (or other currency) signs $
- Percentage symbols %
- Asterisks *
Grawlix is not used in formal contexts like academic writing, but it’s commonly used in informal communications via text and social media, especially when the user wants to use language that isn’t officially allowed on the platform in question. The “angry face” emoji (🤬) also features grawlix.
In order to make the specific word identifiable, people sometimes use a mixture of symbols and letters or pick symbols for their resemblance to the letters they represent. It’s also common to use asterisks (*) to censor one or more individual letters (often vowels) in a word.
Recommended language articles
Frequently asked questions about grawlix
What’s it called when you use symbols to replace curse words?
The term for the use of typographical symbols to replace curse words is grawlix. The term was coined by the cartoonist Mort Walker to describe a common trend in comic books.
Outside of comics, grawlix may be encountered on social media and used for humorous effect or to avoid excessive profanity in some book titles. It consists of a random string of punctuation such as at signs, exclamation points, question marks, and dollar signs (e.g., “#$%@!”).
What are common curse word symbols?
Two common ways of censoring curse words in text are:
- Replacing some letters (usually the vowels) with asterisks (e.g., “sh*t”)
- Using grawlix, a random string of punctuation—usually ampersands, at signs, exclamation points, question marks, hash symbols, and dollar signs—to replace the entire word (e.g., “What the $#&!?”)
What is a grawlix generator?
Grawlix is the use of punctuation marks to replace profanity in text. A grawlix generator is a tool that automatically generates a random series of punctuation marks to replace a word.
You can of course also write your own grawlix by just typing a random selection of punctuation such as “@$#&!” in place of the relevant word.