A Word about Accents

rogersgeorge on May 25th, 2016

English doesn’t use accents, officially, though we do have the dieresis (dee-AIR-a-sis) , which has fallen into disuse. Technically, you use the dieresis when you have a pair of vowels that could be interpreted as a digraph (both vowels making one sound such as the “oa” in “boat), but they need to be pronounced separately. “Coöperate” is the old way of spelling co-operate. Another one is “naïve,” which, I think, you see somewhat more often.

Then we have loan words, words borrowed from another language, and they bring their accents with them. The example of this that comes to mind immediately is the word for a document summarizing your work history, intended you get you an interview. It’s résumé. You really need to use those accents, because English has a perfectly good word spelled without the accents. Fortunately the two words don’t generally appear in the same context. (ahem) The comic below could be an example of both words together; his résumé resumes below the repair.

Frank & Ernest

So how do you make accents?

  • You can find one someplace and do a copy and paste.
  • You can look up the ASCII code (google it). To use the ASCII code, hold down the Alt key while you type the (Latin-1) numbers on the numeric keypad. I don’t have a Mac, but apparently you hold down Option-Shift while you enter the (Roman) number.
  • There’s a browser extension named Accent Grid for Chrome in the Chrome Web Store that shows a 4×4 grid of accented characters that you copy and paste into your document. You can change the choice of characters that appear by going to Settings and entering the html code for the character.
  • Many applications have their own keystroke combinations for some of these, too.
  • Memorize a few that you use a lot. The lowercase e with an acute accent, for example, is Alt-0233. In Word you can also do Ctrl-Alt-e.

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A good way to ruin a nice piece of wisdom

rogersgeorge on February 8th, 2014

I don’t usually blog about typographical errors because I tend to assume that they are more a slip of the finger than of the intellect. Just the same, I can think of a couple places where typos are verboten. Your résumé is one. Aphorisms are another.

As a rule, any time you leave a stupid mistake in something you write, it gives the lie to your competence, wisdom, status; whatever your writing is trying to accomplish. (Since I write about mistakes in writing so much, I even proofread my emails and instant messages. People are delighted when they find that I made a goof.)

Here’s a case in point.


A nice piece of wisdom, perhaps, but you wonder who would allow that apostrophe in there. I’ll give the writer the benefit of the doubt and say it was a slip of the finger, but I still say PROOFREAD!