A Single Prime Symbol

SBL Handbook of Style

Many writing in the field of biblical studies and its cognate disciplines will have reason to use a prime symbol: ′. This single mark is used in various contexts to indicate a number of different things. The following noncomprehensive list identifies some of the more common.

  • A prime symbol can stand for the word feet, as in 3.5′. (The double prime is used in place of inches in such contexts, e.g., 3′ 6″.)
  • A prime symbol is often used to mark the second of two related units in a concentric or chiastic structure (e.g., G and G′) or the lines in a poetic structure (A B B′ A′).
  • Use of a prime symbol with the line numbers of an ancient text generally indicates that the numbering is relative. That is, scholars do not know how many lines are missing from the beginning of a broken text and start counting…

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