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Brief description of character entities, or “special” HTML characters.
The entire Web Design Principles section can be accessed through the menu below.
A character entity reference is an SGML construct that references a character of the document character set. — W3C
Now that we're all confused by the W3 quote, let’s figure it out in everyday terms.
HTML allows for lots of special characters, or character entities. In fact, that’s how I’m writing the HTML and CSS code being displayed on these pages. (How do you think your browser knows not to display this:
<h1>heading code</h1> as an h1 heading?)
When you want to make a copyright symbol ( © ) an “a” with an acute diacritical mark ( á ) or something else equally (or more) unusual, you’ll need to use a special character. They all begin with an ampersand ( & ) and end with a semi-colon ( ; ).
There are dozens of special character tables out there. Evolt.org has a very good one. Dave Taylor has another one, with some entities that Evolt does not provide. And Chris Coyier provides a very complete set of character glyphs. If you need a more elaborate or complete set of special characters, you’ll know why and how to find them.