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Keyboard Symbols in English

Hopefully, most of you by now have broken all your New Year’s Resolutions and started on the serious business of getting through January without murdering anyone. As a result, you won’t find anything motivational or likely to inspire you to be a better person in today’s blog, I’m justgoing to talk about keyboard symbols. Quietly.


If there are a lot of symbols on your keyboard that you don’t know how to say in English, don’t panic – there’s a reason for this. We rarely dictate text these days so most people don’t pronounce the names of punctuation symbols very often, but there are still some that can you out, and most are related to email.

First, you need to know that the symbol “@” was originally invented by monks who got tired of constantly writing the English preposition “at” and developed a lazy version. So your email address is at xmail.com, in the same way that you live at number 221B. The next problem is the little ‘point’ ( . ) before the “com.” For writers, it’s called a full stop in British English or a
period in the US and it’s used to mark the end of sentences. With figures, it separates whole numbers from decimal fractions, and is pronounced “point,” as in one-point-two-five per cent (1.25%). Of course, none of the above is useful for IT (this is English, remember).

If you use the services of a ‘dot-com’ company like Google, this gives you the final way to say “ . ” For email
addresses and website links, pronounce it as “dot” then continue with “com” or a national equivalent, which you should spell out letter by letter (E, S) unless you’re sure an alternative is correct.

Crash Course

The only other symbols that might come up in your mail address, especially if your company is nasty, are three symbols whose pronunciation rhymes with crash: dash ( – ), slash ( / ) and hash ( # ). I’ll be looking at their uses in my next blog, including some of the reasons for their strange names and more useful information about variations like backslash ( \ ) and
underscore ( _ ). If there are any other keyboard symbols that you’d like to see covered in a future blog, let me know on LinkedIn or via the Second Language website.


I’ll be grateful for the ideas!

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