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Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Jan 22, 2014 2:01PM

2014-01-22 0:00, Léonie Watson wrote:

> For new screen reader users, too much punctuation can be overwhelming. It
> adds to the "noise" of the page, and can actually make it harder to
> understand content.

Undoubtedly. But it is important to distinguish between different kinds
of characters. The blog entry title refers to punctuation and
typographic symbols, but it actually mostly deals with other symbols.

Characters like period, comma, semicolon, and quotation marks are
punctuation symbols in a normal symbol. We do not spell them out when
reading text, but they may affect reading, as pauses, emphasis, or
changes in tone. In some special reading modes, their names might be
used, but for normal text, that would be unnatural.

Characters like the dagger, the double prime, and the per mille sign
belong to the General Punctuation block in Unicode, but they aren't
really punctuation. They are special symbols, which are normally spelled
out in a context-dependent and language-dependent manner, for example
"died", "inches", or "per mille". It is very difficult to implement them
properly in speech synthesis, but the reasonable fallback behavior is
usually to pronounce the Unicode name of the character. It is surely
better to read them that way than just ignore them.

This point is even stronger for characters that are not even formally
punctuation but e.g. mathematical symbols, like the minus sign.

So I think a prime requirement would be that screen readers should speak
out the names of characters that they do not otherwise handle.