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Special Characters

Important Notice
These standards apply to content posted prior to January 18, 2018 that has not been subsequently edited or updated. Visit the main CDE Web Standards for the current standards.

This page is part of the California Department of Education (CDE) Web Design Standards, which only applies to specific CDE Web sites. Visit the CDE Web Standards to determine if these standards apply to a specific Web product (Web site, Web page, Web document, or Web application) that has been developed by or for the CDE.

Most Web pages (not including Web applications) on all CDE Web sites are created using Adobe's Contribute software templates. WebNETS, which is a custom software application that was created by CDE staff, is also necessary in order to create and process most Web pages on the CDE's public Internet site. Portions of these standards, where noted, apply only to CDE users of Contribute or WebNETS software; or to Web application developers.

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Special characters that are not entered into a Web page correctly will prevent a page from validating. When the following characters are used in body text, or in links, please use the character entity for the special character:

Special Character Name

Special Character Symbol

Character Entity/HTML Name




Non-breaking space



Less than



Greater than



Section sign






Plus or minus




There are many other Characters and Symbols External link opens in new window or tab. that can be referenced by HTML Name or HTML Number that can be found in any comprehensive HTML guide, or by doing a search on the Web.

For Contribute Users

Contribute handles the inclusion of most special characters without needing to work with character entities. However, there are two instances where Contribute users will have to consider special characters.

Special Characters in Links

When special characters are included in links (URLs), validation errors will occur. Contribute users must replace each instance of the special character with the corresponding character entity. Most often that means replacing each: "&" with "&amp;"




Pasting From a Word Document

The use of the following special characters will prevent pages from validating when they are pasted from a Word document. Do not paste them from Word into Contribute, because they will cause errors and will need to be replaced manually.

Smart quotes (“ ”)
En dashes ( – )
Em dashes ( — )

The Trademark symbol ( ™ )
The ellipsis ( … )
The single opening quote ( ` )

When working in Contribute, all special characters that are inserted from the "Insert" menu do not cause validation errors because Contribute adds them as character entities.

Questions:   Web Services Office |
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, July 8, 2020