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What are the options that can be considered an alternative to the old asterism (⁂) symbol ?

I would like to denote a small break in the flow of the text, I noticed that this days many people like to just add more whitespace than the usual new line; but still, I would like to use a symbol, a more explicit glyph and I don't know if there are more "modern" ways to express this.

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Related/duplicate: PRL style horizontal line in Latex –  Werner Feb 13 at 22:59
    
@Werner thanks for the remainder, I forgot to say 1 thing: I consider a line a inadequate solution, usually lines represents more drastic separations and lines are not perceived as a "small" break; a line it's too "heavy" for what I want to express. –  user2485710 Feb 13 at 23:17
    
1  
Related/duplicate: Totally sweet horizontal rules in LaTeX –  Werner Feb 14 at 0:02
    
peter wilson's "glisterings" column in tugboat has introduced some attractive separators: ornaments from the web-o-mints glyphs; peter flynn, in "typographers' inn" has also made some interesting suggestions: Where have all the flowers gone? –  barbara beeton Feb 14 at 17:00

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Fleurons could be an alternative; the pgfornament package can be used in this case:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{pgfornament}

\newcommand\myasterismi{%
  \par\bigskip\noindent\hfill\pgfornament[width=17pt]{7}\hfill\null\par\bigskip
}
\newcommand\myasterismii{%
  \par\bigskip\noindent\hfill\pgfornament[width=17pt]{1}\hfill\null\par\bigskip
}
\newcommand\myasterismiii{%
  \par\bigskip\noindent\hfill\pgfornament[width=17pt]{4}\hfill\null\par\bigskip
}

\newcommand\Text{%
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Ut purus elit,
vestibulum ut, placerat ac, adipiscing vitae, felis. Curabitur dictum gravida
mauris. Nam arcu libero, nonummy eget, consectetuer id, vulputate a, magna.
Donec vehicula augue eu neque. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus
et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Mauris ut leo. Cras viverra
metus rhoncus sem. Nulla et lectus vestibulum urna fringilla ultrices. Phasellus
}

\begin{document}
\Text
\myasterismi
\Text
\myasterismii
\Text
\myasterismiii
\Text
\end{document}

enter image description here

The Web-O-Mints fonts offer another set of glyphs that could be used:

\documentclass{article}

\newcommand*\wb[3]{%
  {\fontsize{#1}{#2}\usefont{U}{webo}{xl}{n}#3}}

\newcommand\myasterismi{%
  \par\bigskip\noindent\hfill\wb{10}{12}{I}\hfill\null\par\bigskip
}
\newcommand\myasterismii{%
  \par\bigskip\noindent\hfill\wb{15}{18}{UV}\hfill\null\par\medskip
}
\newcommand\myasterismiii{%
  \par\bigskip\noindent\hfill\wb{15}{18}{z}\hfill\null\par\bigskip
}

\newcommand\Text{%
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Ut purus elit,
vestibulum ut, placerat ac, adipiscing vitae, felis. Curabitur dictum gravida
mauris. Nam arcu libero, nonummy eget, consectetuer id, vulputate a, magna.
Donec vehicula augue eu neque. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus
et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Mauris ut leo. Cras viverra
metus rhoncus sem. Nulla et lectus vestibulum urna fringilla ultrices. Phasellus
}

\begin{document}
\Text
\myasterismi
\Text
\myasterismii
\Text
\myasterismiii
\Text
\end{document}

enter image description here

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If you decide to stay with the asterism, here is a homemade version.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{stackengine}
\usepackage{lipsum}
\usepackage{graphicx}
\def\asterism{\par\vspace{1em}{\centering\scalebox{1.5}{%
  \stackon[-0.5pt]{\bfseries*~*}{\bfseries*}}\par}\vspace{.5em}\par}
\begin{document}
\lipsum[5]

\asterism

\lipsum[2]
\end{document}

enter image description here

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This is the solution noted in the Comprehensive LaTeX Symbol List (p. 104 in the A4-format PDF):

Sometimes an ordinary tabular environment can be co-opted into juxtaposing existing symbols into a new symbol. Consider the following definition of \asterism ... from a June 2007 post to comp.text.tex by Peter Flynn:

\newcommand{\asterism}{\smash{%
\raisebox{-.5ex}{%
\setlength{\tabcolsep}{-.5pt}%
\begin{tabular}{@{}cc@{}}%
\multicolumn2c*\\[-2ex]*&*%
\end{tabular}}}}

Note how the space between columns (\tabcolsep) and rows (\[. . . ]) is made negative to squeeze the asterisks closer together.

This code provides a command \asterism which produces the following symbol with the default LaTeX fonts (at the greatest magnification my viewer will allow):

<code>\asterism</code>

What I used when I needed this (and had never even heard of an asterism) was to use a solution similar to Gonzalo Medina's but without the need for pgfornaments (which I'd also never heard of and which might not have been written):

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{pifont,kantlipsum}

\newcommand*{\altasterism}{\vspace*{1em plus .5em minus .5em}\noindent\hspace*{\fill}\ding{104}\hspace*{\fill}}

\begin{document}
\kant[1]

\altasterism

\kant[2]
\end{document}

This produces the following:

<code>\altasterism</code> with <code>pifont</code>

What I liked about this symbol was that it was relatively unobtrusive and did not distract from the text. It did just enough to delineate the end of the description of one thing and the beginning of the next, without detracting from the focus on those descriptions.

Obviously you could substitute a different character or a symbol from an entirely different font, thus providing a great many variations to produce more-or-less decorative effects and more-or-less stringent breaks.

I would say this: it would be very easy to go over the top with this kind of thing. I really think 'less is more' in this kind of case. The typography should draw attention to the text and not away from it. (Ideally, the reader should not really notice the typography at all.)

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However, \ooalign{\hfil\raise1ex\hbox{*}\hfil\cr*\kern-0.07ex*} will do a similar job (the 1ex and 0.7ex are untested), and somehow I find it more readable than the code with the necessity of \setlength and stuff :) But still, your solution works, and works nicely, so +1 –  tohecz Feb 14 at 0:08
    
@tohecz It is not my solution, though. As I say in my answer, it is Peter Flynn's, as noted in the Comprehensive Symbol List. As I also now explain, my solution was actually more along the lines of Gonzalo Medina's although I'd no more heard of pgfornaments than I had of an asterism. –  cfr Feb 14 at 0:17

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