Why does Charlie use asterisks in his writings in Flowers for Algernon?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Charlie uses asterisks in his writings when he doesn't know the word. The asterisks appear in "progris riport 5 mar 6." Charlie is sitting in Professor Nemur's office when Dr. Strauss and Burt Selden come in. The men are discussing whether Charlie should be considered for an experiemental operation to increase his intelligence, and Charlie is trying to record what they are saying. The men are talking very quickly and heatedly, and are using words that Charlie does not know, like "intellectual" and "hostile" and "apathetic." Charlie tries to record the words he hears as best he can, but does not get them all, and so instead writes "intelek**" and "host**" and "apathet**." 

Charlie has been told by Dr. Strauss that he should write down the things that he thinks and that happen to him in a journal, and Charlie takes this assignment very seriously. Although his mental capacity prevents him from writing correctly and grammatically, he is ordinarily able to express his ideas quite clearly, if not without errors in writing conventions. When he is listening to the conversation among Dr. Nemur, Dr. Strauss, and Burt Selden, he knows that he is not getting all the words right but does not know how to solve the problem. When he tries to recall words that he does not fully understand, he very practically and ingeniously writes only as much as he can remember, then adds asterisks so that the reader will know that there is more to the word but he does not know what it is.