In all UN/EDIFACT Interchanges (UNA:+.? ‘) defines the separators as the first Advise segment of the message. The colon (:) becomes the Component Separator, the plus sign (+) becomes the Separator element, the dot (.) becomes the decimal separator, the question mark (?) becomes the Release Indicator, the space sign (invisible white space) remains a space, and the apostrophe () is the Terminator segment.

In the EDIFACT subset EANCOM, four special characters (extracted from UNOA) have a special meaning and serve as default separators for EANCOM:

  • Apostroph = Segment Separator
  • Plus sign + = separator between segment identifiers and data elements contained therein.
  • Colon : = Separator within a data element group.
  • Question mark ? = Release character; if the question mark is immediately before one of the service characters, this character regains its normal meaning. For example, 10?+10=20 means 10+10=20. A question mark is represented by ??

If the trading partners agree on the use of the character sets B to F (inclusive) and the standard separators, the UNA segment must be used to explicitly indicate the use of the standard separators.

Further information on the UNA segment can be found at

UNA, Service String advice

Function: To define the characters selected for use as delimiters and indicators in the rest of the interchange that follows:
The specifications in the Service string advice take precedence over the specifications for delimiters etc. in segment UNB. See clause 4.

When transmitted, the Service string advice must appear immediately before the Interchange Header (UNB) segment and begin with the upper
case characters UNA immediately followed by the six characters selected by the sender to indicate, in sequence, the following functions:

Type & LengthCardinality NameRemarks
alpha numeric, 1 mandatoryCOMPONENT DATA ELEMENT SEPARATOR
alpha numeric, 1 mandatoryDATA ELEMENT SEPARATOR
alpha numeric, 1 mandatoryDECIMAL NOTATIONComma or full stop
alpha numeric, 1 mandatoryRELEASE INDICATOR
alpha numeric, 1 mandatory
alpha numeric, 1 mandatorySEGMENT TERMINATOR