“Listening is not literacy.

ICEB Apostrophe vs Single Quotes Survey 

The International Council on English Braille (ICEB) is considering alternatives to the symbols that currently represent the opening and closing single quotation marks.

In print the apostrophe and single quotes are basically the same, resulting in frequent errors in electronic braille translation (see the examples below). This issue was brought to the ICEB Executive Committee by braille users because more and more readers are accessing braille that has been translated without any manual intervention. ICEB recently conducted a survey in order to gather feedback as to how single quotation marks should be represented in braille.

Four options were presented, one of which is that no changes would be made to the code at this time. For more detailed explanations of each option please see ICEB's discussion paper (PDF download).

Option 1 (no change) and Option 3 (using dot 3 to represent both the apostrophe and single quotes) received the most votes in all ICEB member countries. However, there was not a definite preference for one of these two options over the other. In order for ICEB to make an informed decision, member countries felt that more input was needed.

The BLC board has decided to conduct another survey to get additional feedback from all stakeholders, but from braille readers in particular. This survey will focus only on the two options which received the most support from ICEB member countries, including Canada.

Please note that you do not have to be an “expert” to respond to this survey. We are interested in your opinion whether you started learning braille 40 years ago or just last week. Even if you participated in the ICEB survey we would encourage you to respond to this one as well.

If you are using a screen reader and have difficulty reading this page (which includes embedded images of braille cells), consider downloading the Microsoft Word or PDF versions of this explanation instead. 


These examples contain apostrophes used for omitted letters in speech.

In print, using single quotes:

'I would 'cept I can't find nothin' else.'

Option 1 (no change)

Correct braille:

[2-3-6][6]I wd [3]cept [6]I c[3]t f[3-5]d no[1-4-5-6][3-5][3] else[2-5-6][3-5-6]

Possible incorrect braille:

[6][2-3-6][6]I wd [3][2-3-6]cept [6]I c[3]t f[3-5]d no[1-4-5-6][3-5][6][3-5-6] else[2-5-6][6][3-5-6]

Possible incorrect braille:

[6][2-3-6][6]I wd [6][2-3-6]cept [6]I c[6][3-5-6]t f[3-5]d no[1-4-5-6][3-5][6][3-5-6]

Option 2 (using dot 3 for all single quotes)

Note that this was referred to as 'Option 3' in ICEB's original discussion paper.

Correct braille:

[3][6]I wd [3]cept [6]I c[3]t f[3-5]d no[1-4-5-6][3-5][3] else[2-5-6][3]

Some things to consider

  • This issue has more of an impact on those who read braille that is translated without manual intervention, such as when you connect a braille display with an iDevice or a PC. As new low-cost displays come on the market this type of braille will be more widespread than it is today.
  • Beginning braille readers may have difficulty distinguishing between dot 3 and dot 6 at the start of a word.
  • Option 3 can be fully automated by screen readers and braille translation software.
  • One of the principles of UEB is a one-to-one correlation between print and braille symbols to make translation more accurate and less dependent on context.
  • Some countries, such as Australia and the UK, use single quotes as the predominant quotes. This means that in print books where there is, for example, dialogue between characters, single quotation marks rather than double quotation marks are used to delineate speech. The UEB rules currently allow the low h and low j (dots 2-3-6 and dots 3-5-6 respectively) to represent the “predominant quotes” in such situations.
  • The status quo does not need to be maintained simply because it is the status quo.


Click here to take our survey and have your say: keep the status quo or use dot 3 for both apostrophe's and single quotes?