In the English-speaking world, braille comes in two flavors: grade 1 and grade 2. Each character in the braille alphabet is formed by a combination of raised dots in six possible positions, for a total of 63 possible characters. In grade 1 braille, only the letters of the alphabet and a few punctuation marks are represented.

In grade 2 braille, as defined by a conference in London in 1932 and revised in 1957, certain common combinations of letters, such as “ch,” “gh,” “sh,” “th” and “wh” are also represented by single characters, as are common short words such as “the,” “and,” “with” and “for.” This saves a vast amount of space and makes reading faster. The U.S. laws requiring braille lettering on elevator control panels, for example, specify grade 2.

a few letters in braille

For a complete alphabet, visit

To get a better idea of how braille looks, type your name or some short phrase in the box below, then click on show. (The underlying code and images are courtesy of Olivier Giulieri.)

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