How universal is the exclamation point?

jonathanhughes's picture

I need to create an icon that can be understood by speakers of many languages. I'm thinking of incorporating an exclamation point, but I'm wondering how universal it is. According to wikipedia:

"The exclamation mark is common to languages using the Latin alphabet, although usage varies slightly between languages. The exclamation mark is also used in languages with other scripts, such as Greek, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean and Japanese."

It mentions Arabic, but what about any of the other languages of the Middle East?

Does anyone know of any languages (not counting languages spoken in undeveloped areas) that don't use the exclamation point (and if they use a substitute, what is it)?

thanks!

Jonathan

Theunis de Jong's picture

?

I don't think there is any symbol that can be recognized by all people on the world. Even something simple like the arrow → is ambiguous -- the "Warning: Laser" icon uses it in a reversed form.

Latin, Greek, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean and Japanese -- with both first- and second language speakers --, to how many people does that add up? Who are you afraid of missing out on? Cherokee, Amaya, Aussie Aboriginals?

russellm's picture

as an icon that says "just don't" a hand showing the open palm as if held up in front of the viewer's face in a "Stop right there & go no further." gesture is often used in countries with low literacy rates.

However, the exclamation mark is very widely used as a caution symbol on packaging and signs meant to be trans-lingual.

Si_Daniels's picture

I think an exclamation mark would likely be geopolitically safer than the hand gesture.

John Hudson's picture

In at least one southern African alphabet, the exclamation sign is a consonant letter, indicating a retroflex click.

speter's picture

as an icon that says "just don't" a hand showing the open palm as if held up in front of the viewer's face in a "Stop right there & go no further." gesture is often used in countries with low literacy rates.

And it's reportedly offensive in some countries (essentially the same as giving someone the finger in the US).

AzizMostafa's picture

@ … if they use a substitute, what is it?

Flipped Horizontally or vertically?!

jonathanhughes's picture

Thanks for the input! It looks like the exclamation point would be recognizable in all the geographic areas I need to deal with, but I'm probably going down the wrong alley, since the exclamation point is so widely used as a caution symbol.

The symbol I'm trying to create needs to say "I need help!" and I was thinking that the exclamation point could serve that purpose, but since it's already commonly used for something else, it probably wouldn't be a good choice.

Syndicate content Syndicate content