Signs and Symbols

Internet/web symbols

We are all very familiar with symbols that we use everyday on the internet and on our computers, but are we always sure how to say them?

“At” symbol (@)

The @ “at” symbol is used in email addresses.


You would read this as: “David dot Jones at international hyphen indemnity dot com”


“Jennifer underscore Bateson at H W X dot org”


The forward slash (sometimes just called “slash”) (/) is used in web page addresses:


“Universal hyphen Appliances dot co dot UK (forward) slash customer underscore enquiries”.

The back slash (or backslash) (\) is only really used for file paths on a PC.

E.g. See if you can find the file in C:\Users\User\AppData\Local\Temp

This would be read as:

C (drive) Users backslash User backslash AppData backslash Local backslash Temp

If you have to read this out (typically when you are speaking to someone on an IT helpdesk or in a technical support department) you would probably just say:

“C Users User AppData Local Temp”.

Maths and science

Even though they are all perfectly familiar, the symbols used in maths and science can cause a lot of problems when you have to say them, or read them out loud (e.g. during a presentation, or dictating to someone over the phone).

Plus / add (+)

3 + 4 = 7

Say: “Three plus four equals seven”

Minus/Subtract/Take away (-)

9  - 8 = 1

Say: “Nine minus eight equals one”

Times (multiply) (X) (*)

8 x 8 = 64

Say: Eight times eight is 64.

Or: eight eights ###strong sixty-four.

Divide (÷) (/)

24 ÷ 8 = 3

Say: “Twenty-four divided by eight equals three”

Greater than (>) and less than (<)

These symbols are used to show that something is either “greater than” (>) a certain amount – or “less than” (<) a given figure:

<50% means “less than fifty per cent”, e.g. 49%

>50% means “greater than/more than fifty per cent”, e.g. 51%


30°C – Thirty degrees centigrade (or Celsius).

Note: Americans, and some British people, use Fahrenheit instead of centigrade.  In Britain this is particularly common when demonstrating a dramatically high temperature, for example, “PASSENGERS ROAST IN 100° TUBE CARRIAGES”

Improve your confidence in spoken English with our General English course or Individual English training in our centre in London or online.

Other symbols

The percentage symbol (%) is read as “per cent”, e.g. 56% “fifty-six per cent”.

The hash symbol (#) and the asterisk (or star)(*) symbol are often used in automated instructions, e.g. when you phone a call centre using a touch-tone phone:

Enter your sixteen digit card number followed by the hash key (#).

Thankyou. Please press the star key now (*).  Note, the hash key (#) may be called the pound key in the USA.

Suggested courses:

About The London School of English

The London School of English has over 100 years of history teaching English and communication skills to adult learners. It is the joint #1 English language school in the UK according to the British Council inspections, the highest rated English language school in the world on Trustpilot, and the best value for money school according The English Language Gazette. 

Our practical, individualised approach enables our clients to learn effectively and make rapid progress. Courses include General English, Individual English training, Legal English, Business and Professional English, IELTS preparation and Academic English. We also offer bespoke business solutions for staff training and assessment. 

You can learn English with our expert trainers in our London centre at 15 Holland Park Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, or you can choose to study English online in groups or in individual classes. Contact us online or via phone +44 (0) 207 605 4142.

All articles Next article

Post your questions and comments: