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Accent Marks • Using Diacriticals in Desktop Publishing

Those Squiggly Little Marks

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Words with accent marks

Examples of words with accent marks. | Type & Fonts FAQ | Glossary of Type & Fonts Terms

An accent mark is a mark or addition to some characters to denote a specific pronounciation.
Accent marks or diacriticals are rare in English but are a common occurrence in French, German, Italian, Spanish, and other languages. Some of the more commonly seen accent marks include acute, cedilla, circumflex, grave, tilde, and umlaut or diaeresis*. Many "Americanized" foreign words may be found written with or without their accent marks, such as cafe, naive, or facade (café, naïve, façade).

* See page 2 for clarification on umlaut vs. diaeresis for differences that are not reflected in the accompanying chart and graphics.

Examples of Diacriticals

é Acute
ç Cedilla
â Circumflex
è Grave
ñ Tilde
ü Umlaut/Diaeresis

Keystrokes for Mac and PC
When using a standard English keyboard and fonts it is necessary to use special characters or keystroke combinations in order to apply accent marks. The basic keystroke combinations are:

  • Mac Option plus a key or key combination — Opt+e, a for á

  • Windows ALT plus a numeric code — ALT+0225 for á

  • HTML Ampersand plus character code followed by a semi-colon — á for á

I've put together a simple table of diacriticals showing the Mac, Windows, and HTML codes for the six common accent marks encountered in English text. This table also appears at the end of this page.

Designing with Diacriticals
These rules apply especially to US designers and others designing in English for a predominantly English-speaking audience.

  • Italicize foreign words or phrases. Include the accent mark when your text includes foreign words, proper names, or common English words that are normally accented.

  • Be consistent. If you start out using accents, continue to do so throughout the document.

  • Pay attention to the available special characters in the digital typefaces you choose. Not all fonts contain these characters.

  • You may want to use a larger typesize for body text or experiment with different faces to find a font where the accent marks don't appear to merge into the accented letters or show up as little "smudges."

More About Accent Marks and Languages

French Language
"It is essential to put accents in their proper places - an incorrect or missing accent is a spelling mistake just as an incorrect or missing letter would be. The only exception to this is capital letters, which are often left unaccented." — Learn how to pronounce accented characters and all about reading, writing, and speaking French.

Spanish Language
"Typing accented characters using either a Microsoft Windows-based or Macintosh computer isn't all that difficult. But it isn't intuitive." — Includes step-by-step instructions on how to add accented characters under Windows or on a Mac as well as lessons in learning Spanish.

German Language
This special character chart for German describes which accented characters are most common in that language and how to type them. Also see German Language Dictionaries to find a dictionary online to translate between English and German plus other resources for reading, writing, and speaking German including "Wir chatten... über Deutsch und auf deutsch!" (German Chat).

Italian Language
Use this chart to find the accented characters most often used in Italian and how to type them.

Character Mac Windows HTML Character Mac Windows HTML
Acute [resumé] Umlaut [naïve]
Á
á
É
é
Í
í
Ó
ó
Ú
ú
Ý
ý
Opt + e, A
Opt + e, a
Opt + e, E
Opt + e, e
Opt + e, I
Opt + e, i
Opt + e, O
Opt + e, o
Opt + e, U
Opt + e, u
Opt + e, Y
Opt + e, y
ALT + 0193
ALT + 0225
ALT + 0201
ALT + 0233
ALT + 0205
ALT + 0237
ALT + 0211
ALT + 0243
ALT + 0218
ALT + 0250
ALT + 0221
ALT + 0253
Á
á
É
é
Í
í
Ó
ó
Ú
ú
Ý
ý
Ä
ä
Ë
ë
Ï
ï
Ö
ö
Ü
ü
Ÿ
ÿ
Opt + u, A
Opt + u, a
Opt + u, E
Opt + u, e
Opt + u, I
Opt + u, i
Opt + u, O
Opt + u, o
Opt + u, U
Opt + u, u
Opt + u, Y
Opt + u, y
ALT + 0196
ALT + 0228
ALT + 0203
ALT + 0235
ALT + 0207
ALT + 0239
ALT + 0214
ALT + 0246
ALT + 0220
ALT + 0252
ALT + 0159
ALT + 0255
Ä
ä
Ë
ë
Ï
ï
Ö
ö
Ü
ü
Ÿ
ÿ
Grave [voilà] Circumflex [château]
À
à
È
è
Ì
ì
Ò
ò
Ù
ù
Opt + `, A
Opt + `, a
Opt + `, E
Opt + `, e
Opt + `, I
Opt + `, i
Opt + `, O
Opt + `, o
Opt + `, U
Opt + `, u
ALT + 0192
ALT + 0224
ALT + 0200
ALT + 0232
ALT + 0204
ALT + 0236
ALT + 0210
ALT + 0242
ALT + 0217
ALT + 0249
À
à
È
è
Ì
ì
Ò
ò
Ù
ù
Â
â
Ê
ê
Î
î
Ô
ô
Û
û
Opt + i, A
Opt + i, a
Opt + i, E
Opt + i, e
Opt + i, I
Opt + i, i
Opt + i, O
Opt + i, o
Opt + i, U
Opt + i, u
ALT + 0194
ALT + 0226
ALT + 0202
ALT + 0234
ALT + 0206
ALT + 0238
ALT + 0212
ALT + 0244
ALT + 0219
ALT + 0251
Â
â
Ê
ê
Î
î
Ô
ô
Û
û
Tilde [mañana] Cedilla [façade]
Ã
ã
Ñ
ñ
Õ
õ
Opt + n, A
Opt + n, a
Opt + n, N
Opt + n, n
Opt + n, O
Opt + n, o
ALT + 0195
ALT + 0227
ALT + 0209
ALT + 0241
ALT + 0213
ALT + 0245
Ã
ã
Ñ
ñ
Õ
õ
Ç
ç
Opt + Shft, C
Opt + c
ALT + 0199
ALT + 0231
Ç
ç

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