What is contracted (grade two) braille?

Contractions are specialized abbreviations. For example, there is one braille cell for th, and another one for in. In braille, think is 3 characters, th, in, and the letter k. The use of these abbreviations follows pronunciations. The th sign is not used in the word pothole, since that would suggest the word is pronounced with a "th" sound.

At various times, grade one braille (no contractions), grade one and a half braille (about 50 contractions), grade two braille (187 contractions), and grade three braille (many hundreds of contractions) have been defined. Since World War 2, only grade one and grade two have been used. Recently, there has been agreement to use the terms uncontracted braille and contracted braille to avoid confusion with school grade levels.

Image of the BANA braille chart, reduced to a resolution of about 400x600. Click on the image for the printable PDF version.

PDF image for printing (best if printed on 11x17 inch paper)

Please see the NLS Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing, 2009 to learn more about the braille contractions. It is one thing to see a list of contractions. It is another to know whether to use the be, the ea, or the ar contractions in the word bear.


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