How to Write a Secret Code With Symbols

Written by maggie worth
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How to Write a Secret Code With Symbols
Symbol substitution is a quick, easy way to create your own secret code. (international symbols image by feisty from

In "The Code Book," author Simon Singh explains that people have been communicating in code ever since they learnt to write. Encoded messages have been used by governments, businesses and the military for centuries. Creating a personal secret code is a smart way to ensure the secrecy of important documents. It's also a fun way to communicate with your mystery-fan kid or indulge your own childhood interest in spies and secret messages. Writing your secret code is an easy task using simple symbol substitution.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Write the letters of the alphabet vertically on a sheet of paper. For example:





  2. 2

    Assign each letter a symbol, and write the symbol next to the corresponding letter. If you will type messages using the code, use only symbols you can easily create using the standard keyboard. For example:

    A - !

    B - @

    C- #

    D - $

  3. 3

    Keep the key--the list of letters and symbols you just wrote--in a safe place so you can refer to it until you can memorise it. If you plan to send messages to other people, provide them with a copy of the key so they can decipher your messages.

  4. 4

    Clearly print or type what you want to say in your message, leaving at least one space between each line of writing. Below each letter, write or type the symbol you have chosen to represent that letter.

  5. 5

    Copy only the symbols from your message onto a new sheet of paper, and destroy the original to preserve secrecy. If you are typing, delete the letters so only the symbols remain.

  6. 6

    Use the key to decipher encoded messages written by someone else. Write the corresponding letter beneath each symbol to reveal the hidden message.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice writing in your code often to help you memorise it and remember it.
  • Once you are accustomed to writing in code, you may skip Step 4 and write your message directly in symbols.
  • Your code is only as safe as your key. Don't leave the key where others can read it or your code will no longer be a secret.

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