Insert accents into Microsoft Word

Speak a foreign language with ease!

Well, okay, we can’t help you to learn a foreign language, but we can make typing in a foreign language a little easier.

How to insert acute accents, grave accents, tildes and more

When people have to insert an accent in a Word document, the most common technique is to go to the Insert menu, select Symbol and then locate the required accent (in Word 2003 and earlier) or select "More symbols" under the Symbol button on the Insert tab of the ribbon (in Word 2007). Of course, this works just fine, but it’s not fast. Especially if you have to type a document with lots of accents.

The solution can really save time – it’s a technique which works with very many accents from the major Western European languages such as Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Danish… and so on.

The trick is as follows:

  1. Find the symbol on the keyboard which most closely resembles the accent
  2. Press CTRL plus the symbol (using Shift as well, if necessary)
  3. Type the character to be "accented"

Let’s take an example or two. Suppose you want to type the word mañana, complete with the accent on the first n. There is a symbol representing the tilde accent on the keyboard – it’s the "swung dash" which is above the # symbol (at least that’s where it is on my keyboard!). So, to type mañana, you do the following:

  1. Type the first "ma" of the word
  2. Press CTRL – SHIFT – # (note that nothing appears on the screen at this stage)
  3. Type the n to receive the accent – it will appear with the accent!

Or one more example: to get the small circular accent above the letter a as in Sophie Gråbol:

  1. Type the first few letters – Sophie Gr
  2. The circular accent (what is its name?!) looks a bit like the @ symbol, so press CTRL and @ (on UK keyboards, that’s CTRL, SHIFT and apostrophe)
  3. Nothing appears… but then when you type the letter a you’ll end up with the accented letter!

One other note on this particular accent – it’s a favourite of mine, because if you type a space after the shortcut combination (instead of the a in the above example) you get the circle above a space – which is the degree symbol!

There are, of course, lots of accents that can’t be inserted with this technique, but there are also very many that you can. So, here’s a table of some of the more common accents, and the symbol to match them. Remember that in addition to holding control, some of these symbols require that you use SHIFT to obtain them (such as the ^ symbol above the number 6 on the keyboard). Also note that the accents can be applied to any necessary character – the letters I’ve chosen to accent in the table are just examples.

In order to make this easier to read, I’ve made the font a bit bigger, so apologies for "shouting"!

For this accent Press CTRL and…
ô ^
' ‘ (apostrophe)
è `(to the left of 1)
ç , (comma)
å @
ë : (colon)
ã ~