For example, each row in table has Y or N to denote the presence or absence of something. This could be changed to a check or "x". Check means present, "x" means absent.

Does the check vs "x" make sense to non-English speakers? Is there a good alternative that is more international?

  • I've seen check vs x, and thumb-up vs thumb-down. Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


The meaning of a certain symbol can change depending on the culture. Here are some example's i could find related to your question (I hid the answer to see if you can guess correctly):

In Sweden, what does ✓ mean on a test?

It is commonly used to indicate an incorrect answer.

In Holland does a 'V' icon mean correct or incorrect on a test?

It is commonly used to indicate an incorrect answer. I can confirm this as I am from Holland.

Also according to Wikipedia, the O mark is used in east Asia the same way an X mark is used in Western countries.


In a lot of Western countries a ✓ mark will mean 'correct', while an X mark will mean incorrect. However, in certain situations it will not provide the correct. It is extremely hard to find one icon that is used by everyone the same way. I think it is best if you use a legend to show what a certain icon means.

So something like: ✓ = Present

Another thing you can do is only show if someone has not been present, you can maybe change the icon to something like an exclamation mark when someone has not been present.

  • OK, that's helpful. I can see one approach would be use a single character (Y, N, X, O, ✓, or other unicode) on a per-language basis. Then it will be easy to customize.
    – B Seven
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 22:16
  • @BSeven If you do a per-language basis, make sure to show it, or you'll only confuse the user further (as a parallel, if a date format is language-dependent, it runs the risk of further confusing the user about which date 02/08/18 means instead of clarifying it...)
    – Medinoc
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 9:59
  • @Medinoc - What do you mean "make sure to show it"? All the text on the page would be in the given language. What do you mean about the date? Doesn't 02/08/18 mean one day in each language? If not, how to clarify it?
    – B Seven
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 16:12
  • 2
    To continue using the date parable, 02/08/18 is useless without some way to explicitly state "all dates are shown in Xxx format." You can't rely only on the rest of the page using an Xxxish language. Well, for your checkmarks it's the same: language isn't enough, you need to explicitly state which convention you're using.
    – Medinoc
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 6:15
  • I'm also from the Netherlands but have never seen that V icon. What symbols mean is very contextual, some teachers might circle something to indictate it's incorrect, or just use any scribbles. Using a red or blue pen can even make a difference. It's not just about the symbol, taking context into account, on digital systems a tick and cross is very commonly used and understood.
    – Martyn
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 7:17

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