Accents, Diacriticals and Special Language Characters for Foreign Languages

Special characters are often needed for DOS and MACs in three areas: for word processing, for writing within a internet page (i.e., an on-line student journal), and for html. This page, compiled from several sources and numerous LLTI messages, offers several options and hopefully solutions. A list of reference sites is included. Please, send a note with any corrections and improvements you can offer to


For Macs, in most cases, first hold down the "Option" key on the keyboard and then strike a regular character key as indicated below. Nothing will appear on your screen at this point. Release both keys, and then type the letter which should carry the diacritical. For some special characters press "Option" and one key together. See the following table to get the character that you want.

To find characters others than those listed above, choose Key Caps from the Apple menu for a diagram of your particular keyboard. Vary the font that is displayed by selecting other fonts from the new menu "Key Caps" which will have appeared at the right of your menu bar. The Apple Language Kits offer additional foreign language fonts and Zapf Dingbats consist of nothing but special characters.

acute á, é, í Option + e, the letter
grave è, à, ù Option + `, the letter 
tilde ñ Ñ Option + n, the letter 
circumflex ê Ê Option + i, the letter 
umlaut ä Ä Option + u, the letter "a" or Option + u, Shift and the letter for capital "A"
umlaut ö Ö Option + u, the letter"o" or Option + u, Shift and the letter for capital "O"
umlaut ü Ü Option + u, the letter "u" or Shift and the letter "U"
cedilla ç Ç Option + c or C
reverse question mark ¿ Option + ?
esszett ß  Option + s
reverse examation mark ¡  Option + 1
pound £ Option + 3
paragraph § Option + 6
degree º Option + 0 (zero)
copyright © Option plus g

HTML Tags for Special Characters

HTML uses four characters of the ASCII character set - the left angle bracket (<), the right angle bracket (>), the ampersand (&) and the double quote (") to represent certain aspects of markup tags. Because of this, they cannot be used as part of a text document without a little bit of assistance. Additionally, accent marks and other less common characters can not appear without special help-- codes known as escape sequences, which must be included in the usual brackets for them to be recognized as html code by DOS or MAC machines. Some of the more common codes (spaced out for clarity only) are in the table below and other letter codes can be created by following the examples:
& c o p y ; © (copyright)
& n b s p ; non-breaking space  
& l t ; is the sequence for <
& g t ; is the sequence for >
& a m p ; is the sequence for & = &
& o u m l ; is the sequence for a lowercase o with an umlaut = ö
& O u m l ; is the sequence for an uppercase O with an umlaut = Ö
& E u m l ; is the sequence for an uppercase E with an umlaut = Ë
& e u m l ; is the sequence for a lowercase e with umlaut = ë
& n t i l d e ; is the sequence for a lowercase n with a tilde = ñ
& N t i l d e; is the sequence for an uppercase N with a tilde = Ñ
& E g r a v e ; is the sequence for an uppercase E with a grave accent = È
& e g r a v e ; is the sequence for an lowercase e with a grave accent = è
& E a c u t e ; is the escape sequence for a lowercase e with acute accent = É
& e a c u t e; is the sequence for a uppercase e with a acute accent = é
& A a c u t e ; is the sequence for an uppercase A with acute accent = Á
& a a c u t e ; is the sequence for a lowercase a with acute accent = á

How To Type Accented Characters on a PC

US-International Keyboard uses the ', `, ~, ^, " as dead keys (highlighted in blue below), and uses Right-ALT plus !, ?, and a number of other keys to produce characters not normally available. The accents are intuitive. Tap the accent dead key, then tap the vowel for which you want the accent. The ' dead key also works for the cedilla.
' + e = é
` + e = è
~ + n = ñ
^ + e = ê
" + e = ë
' + c = ç

US-International Keyboard method:
1. Go to Control Panel / Keyboard / Language
2. Choose English-United States-International
    (through PROPERTIES, not "Add")
  • With that option, the keyboard operation is slightly modified but the keyboard does not change for every language (it is useful for German, Spanish, French and Portuguese, among other European languages, including English, of course) and it does not interfere with the regular use of the actual, physical keyboard that you see.
  • when you type the ~ character (left-hand corner of keyboard), nothing shows until you type another key. So, if you type ~ and then the letter n, you get a nice n+tilde output. If you type ~ and then any vowel, you get that vowel with the tilde on top of it (which is used in Portuguese to represent nasal vowels). If you type ~ and then the space bar, you get the ~ character(for example to produce a sting like ~eyepes). If you type ~ and then any other consonant, you get ~ followed by that consonant: ~p, for example.
  • when you type the ' character (center right-hand key of keyboard), nothing appears until you type another key. Again, if you type any vowel immediately after typing ' , you get that vowel with an acute accent (the one used in Spanish and in some French words). If you type the space bar or any other key, you get the usual simple quotation mark followed by the consonant or key that was hit afterwards. For example: 'f , or 'g , and so on.
  • same rules apply for the ` , ^ and " characters: they don't show until you type another key--they will be combined with vowels and followed by consonants.

  • The Windows Character Map, usually found in the Windows 95 (Office 97) Accessories Program Group, provides a combination of keystrokes needed for foreign language applications. Instructions: Go to START, click on FIND and type CHARMAP. Find the character map in Windows, select the font "Times Roman," and use the numeric key pad on the right side of the keyboard to create special characters. The system will occasionally fail if a particular combination of keystrokes has been reserved by another application.

    Depress the ALT key and hold it down while typing in the three-digit number. To type the numbers, use the numeric keypad, not the number keys on the top row.

      128 Ç  
      129 ü 
      130 é 
      131 â 
      132 ä 
      133 à 
      135 ç 
      136 ê 
      137 ë 
      138 è 
      139 ï 
      140 î 
      141 ì 
      142 Ä 
      143 Å 
      144 É 
      145 æ 
      146 Æ 
      147 ô 
      148 ö 
      149 ò 
      150 û 
      151 ù 
      152 ÿ 
      153 Ö 
      154 Ü 
      160 á 
      161 í 
      162 ó 
      163 ú 
      164 ñ 
      165 Ñ 
      168 ¿
    PC Variations: Hitting the spacebar or a non-accented letter after a dead key produces the key's normal value, i.e. ', `, ~, ^, or ". Other special characters can be entered by using the Right-Alt key in combination with other keys  (esp. useful for ¿,  ¡  «, »  ß).  For Spanish, it might be easier to use the Right-Alt key for accents too:
    Alt-? = ¿   Alt-! = ¡   Alt-s = ß   Alt-n = ñ   Alt-N = Ñ   Alt-, = ç
    Alt-a = á   Alt-e = é   Alt-i = í   Alt-o = ó   Alt-u = ú

    This two hundred number combination in the Character Map, set to "Times New Roman," is useful within an internet document (e.g., an on-line student response journal) in the latest versions of browers.
  • ALT + 0224 yields   á
  • ALT + 0225 yields   à
  • ALT + 0233 yields   è
  • ALT + 0232 yields   é
  • ALT + 0242 yields   ò
  • ALT + 0243 yields   ó
  • ALT + 0200 yields   É
  • ALT + 0204 yields   Á
  • ALT + 0241 yields   ñ

  • Other Windows Options

    Here are several options for MS Word. First, in MS Word, go to the Help Menu and search "Diacritic Marks." Second, in MS Word, choose INSERT, SYMBOL, and then select the accented character needed. Third, in newer versions of MS Word
       1. Press CTRL and the key that most closely resembles the accent needed.
       2. Release the two keys pressed in Step 1.
       3. Press the character, and voila--the accented character will appear.

    à, è, ì, ò, ù - À, È, Ì, Ò, Ù  CTRL+` (ACCENT GRAVE), the letter
    á, é, í, ó, ú, ý - Á, É, Í, Ó, Ú, Ý  CTRL+' (APOSTROPHE), the letter
    â, ê, î, ô, û Â, Ê, Î, Ô, Û  CTRL+^ (CARET), the letter
    ã, ñ, õ Ã, Ñ, Õ  CTRL+~ (TILDE), the letter
    ä, ë, ï, ö, ü, ÿ Ä, Ë, Ï, Ö, Ü,   CTRL+: (COLON), the letter
    å, Å  CTRL+@, a or A
    æ, Æ  CTRL+&, a or A
    ,   CTRL+&, o or O
    ç, Ç  CTRL+, (COMMA), c or C
    ð, Р CTRL+' (APOSTROPHE), d or D
    ø, Ø  CTRL+/, o or O
    ¿  ALT+CTRL+?
    ¡  ALT+CTRL+!
    ß  CTRL+&, s

    Other bits of Information

    In Microsoft Office 98 for the MAC, the Value Pack (on the CD-Rom) contains the Proofing Tools--spellcheckers and thesarus for different languages. The tools are language specific and should be set by the user. ALKI provides the foreign language Proofing Tools for Microsoft Office 98.

    Microsoft fonts for the Asian languages exist on the Office 97CD--in the ValuePack folder, open the Far East folder and install Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

    Microsoft has released a free spellchecker, in German for Word 6.0 or MS-Office 97. This is an add-on feature in which unrecognized words are underlined in Word97 but no suggested alternatives are offered and there is no grammar checker. The link to download it is available at this web page:

    WordPerfect since at least version 4.2 has allowed remapping of the keyboard (for DOS and Windows versions at least). The most current versions allow you to have different keyboard maps and switch at random (Edit> Preferences> Keyboard> Create). Unfortunately the keyboards you map only work inside the WordPerfect application.

    Windows95 also has a selection of keyboard layouts that work for all windows applications. To try them, look under "Keyboard" in the ("Start" > "Settings">) "Control panel." For example go to "Keyboard," choose the "Language" tab, hit the "Properties" button and then choose the "UnitedStates-International" from the drop-down menu of keyboard layout choices. You can assign layouts of your choice to languages of your choice. If you have a list of two or more language/layouts listed on the "Language" tab page, the current choice will show on the right side of the task bar and you can click on it to switch between your other selections. To see how the current keyboard is mapped, open the (Start> Programs> Accessories>) "Character Map," choose the font you are working with, and click on the character you wish to type. The keystroke combination for the current layout will show up on the bottom line of the "Character Map" window.

    WordPerfect keyboard maps override the Windows layouts wherever there is a conflict. But you can use the two in combination to create many very useful keyboard shortcuts and features.

    Reference Sites for Special Characters: