Books The writing process

Word Tip 9: Accents / Diacritic Marks and Apostrophes

How do you write the word café? Or über? Or soupçon? Or Señor?

Microsoft Word Tips for Authors

Welcome to the next in a series of tips on using Microsoft Word, geared towards authors.
Most Word advice is rather complicated and full of things you’ll never need to know.
I shall do my best to keep it simple, because you’re not stupid… just busy.
Please note: 
– Not all versions of Word are the same, but most are near enough.
– There are different ways of doing the same thing. I shall demonstrate just one (or two).

How do you write the word café? Or über? Or soupçon? Or Señor?

Word has a list showing how to write each diacritic mark. It’s the sort of list you can remember because it’s really quite guessable. Here it is: (I accessed this by clicking Help, searching for ‘diacritic’ and choosing Keyboard shortcuts for international characters.)

To insert this Press
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+SHIFT+^ (CARET), the letter
ã, ñ, õ
Ã, Ñ, Õ
CTRL+SHIFT+~ (TILDE), the letter
ä, ë, ï, ö, ü, ÿ,
Ä, Ë, Ï, Ö, Ü, Ÿ
CTRL+SHIFT+: (COLON), the letter
å, Å CTRL+SHIFT+@, a or A
æ, Æ CTRL+SHIFT+&, a or A
œ, Œ CTRL+SHIFT+&, o or O
ç, Ç CTRL+, (COMMA), c or C
ð, Ð CTRL+’ (APOSTROPHE), d or D
ø, Ø CTRL+/, o or O

So, for example, to type the word café, type c a f, hold down Ctrl and press  (apostrophe), then release the Ctrl button and press e. Voila!

While we’re on the subject of apostrophes, have you noticed how apostophes at the beginning of words in novels and other writing often appear the wrong way round?

That’s because… I should backtrack. You probably have smart quotes set up. That’s the feature that makes quotation marks at the beginning and end of a quote mirror each other.  To see whether you have smart quotes set up, and to change the setting:

FileOptionsProofingAutoCorrect OptionsAutoFormat As You Type

Under Replace as you type, the option “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes” should be ticked (checked).

That brings us back to the problem of words that start with apostrophes.

Microsoft Word Apostrophe Problem

Well, I happen to think it is. But it’s easily fixed. Word got it wrong because it thinks your apostrophe is a quote mark. All you need to do is a simple copy and paste, using an apostrophe that’s the right way round.

Next week… ooh, I’ve reached the end of the posts I planned, but there must be more possibilities. What did you always want to do with Word but didn’t know how? What would you like to be able to do in Word? You might find the option exists, but you didn’t know about it. Now is the time to ask me. Really – don’t be shy!

Links to Previous Word Tips

  • Tip 1: A Matter of Style
    About heading styles.
  • Tip 2: Make Your Novel a Trampoline
    How to jump swiftly and gracefully between chapters.
  • Tip 3: That’s Not What I Wrote
    How to stop Word making changes you don’t want.
  • Tip 4: How Not to Jump to a New Page
    Press Enter until a new page appears? Please don’t.
  • Tip 5: How Not to Indent a Line
    The space bar is not for indentation.
  • Tip 6: Track and Compare
    About Track Changes, Compare and Combine.
  • Tip 7: Replacement Operation
    Pitfalls of find and replace.
  • Tip 8: Automatic Saves
    The different ways of saving a document


By Miriam Drori

Author, editor, attempter of this thing called life. Social anxiety warrior. Cultivating a Fuji, edition 3, a poignant, humorous and uplifting tale, published with Ocelot Press, January 2023.

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