A Multilingual Guide To Accents and Diacritics In Translated Documents, Part II

The experts at Rennert Translation Group explain how to work with the accents and diacritics in European and Asian languages on computer keyboards.

Diacritics and Computers

Computer keyboard layouts were developed with an English-language bias: they used a "simple" alphabet without accents or diacritical marks. As keyboards were developed for the rest of the world, they made accommodations for accents and diacritics. Some diacritics have their own keys, while others are created by first pressing the designated diacritic key followed by the desired letter or symbol. The computer platform, operating system, and your own preferences will help determine how you create accents on your own computer.

Diacritics on the PC

For Windows users, the US International English keyboard works best for those who are comfortable with the "qwerty" layout and who need a variety of accent marks or symbols. In Windows XP, this keyboard allows the user to easily type most diacritics: "+e gives , ~+o gives , etc. If you prefer to stick with your standard U.S. English keyboard model, here are several ways to create accents and other special characters.

Character Map
Perhaps the only time you might need to type an accented character is when you are typing a customer or employee's name. The character map included in all versions of Windows is a bit awkward to use on a regular basis, but is fine for the occasional insertion of accents and other special characters.

To access the character map in Windows XP, choose Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools - >Character Map. Simply double click on the desired character or symbol. After clicking Copy, return to your document and paste.

Another ALTernative
Those who use only a few basic characters can use Alt key codes (Alt key plus a four digit number). Turn on "NUM LOCK" and use the numerical keys on the right of your keyboard. (The numbers above the letters will not work for ALT codes.) The character appears after the keys are pressed and released. Here are a few of the most common codes.

À  ALT + 0224
á  ALT + 0225
À  ALT + 0192
Á  ALT + 0193
è  ALT + 0232
é  ALT + 0233
È  ALT + 0200
É  ALT + 0201
ì  ALT + 0236
í  ALT + 0237
Ì  ALT + 0204
Í  ALT + 0205
ñ  ALT + 0241
ò  ALT + 0242
ó  ALT + 0243
ù  ALT + 0249

Microsoft Word shortcuts
It is simple to create accent characters in Microsoft Word on your PC. You can use the character map or ALT codes, or you can use the built-in Word shortcuts.

Press CTRL and the desired symbol at the same time, release the keys, then press the letter to be modified. The accented character will then appear.

Á  Ctrl + ' , A
á  Ctrl + ' , a
ñ  Ctrl + Shift + ~, N
Ñ  Ctrl + Shift + ~, Shift + N
Ü  Ctrl + Shift + : , U

Accents on Apples
On Macs, the option key provides easy shortcuts for common accents and marks. Symbols joined by a + need to be held down simultaneously; symbols separated by a comma need to be hit in sequence, one after the other. The following instructions will work on a Mac in most applications, including Word and QuarkXPress. Below are some of the more common diacritics and their Mac codes.

á, é, í, ó, ú  Option + e, the letter
à, è, ì, ò, ù  Option + `, the letter
ñ, Ñ, ã  Option + n, N, a
â, ê, û, î, ô  Option + i, the letter
Ü, ü, ï, ë, ö, ä  Option + u, the letter
Ç, ç  Option + c or C

Accents and HTML
The creation of diacritics in HTML is not platform specific. The codes below can be used on either a Mac or a PC. Each diacritical code begins with an ampersand and ends with a semicolon.

à  à
á  á
ã  ã
ä  ä
ß  ß
ç  ç
è  è
é  é
ì  ì
í  í
ñ  ñ
ò  ò
ö  ö
ù  ù
ü  ü

For a review of general information and the history of accents and diacritics in European and Asian languages, see A Multilingual Guide to Accents and Diacritics in Translated Documents, Part I.