Effective Symbol Use

The five golden rules for writing with symbols

1. Layout = Punctuation

A symbol reader may not see normal punctuation so you have to achieve this through layout. Never string two sentences together on the same line. Ideally keep a sentence to one line, but If you have to wrap, put the line break at a natural speaking pause or an 'and'.


2. Choose symbols carefully

Many words have more than one meaning, so there are often alternative symbols. Most symbol software will allow you to view these alternatives, so choose your symbols carefully. Sometimes the differences in concepts are quite subtle.


3. Remove abstract symbols

Not all symbols are necessary, especially for people who are new to symbols. Abstract concepts like 'a', 'the', 'if' 'but' and 'so' can be removed. For readers unfamiliar with symbols, only the main concepts should be symbolised. More abstract symbols will need to be taught.


4. Read back the symbols

It is important that all the main information-carrying words are symbolised. When symbolising, read back the words you have symbolised. Do you understand the meaning?


5. Don't mix symbol sets

There are many symbol sets around. The most common sets are the Widgit Literacy symbols (previously known as Rebus) and the PCS (Picture Communication Symbols). If you know the sets and their structure then it is fine to mix symbol sets. If you don't, it is best to avoid mixing as they may represent concepts in different ways.



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