Tech for Troglodytes — Three Options to Add Accents, Diacritical Marks and Foreign Symbols on a Mac


Troglodyte: A person regarded as ignorant or old fashioned. A person who lives in a cave.

How to add accents or other diacritical marks to your text (for Mac users): In our multicultural world, it is not OK to pretend that resume is the same as resumé, or a souffle is a soufflé. But how to remember those blasted keyboard shortcuts?

Pay no heed to the experts who tell you to do things like change the language on your keyboard, or use HTML code. Apple has made this very, very simple for us one-language beings.

Method 1: Hold down the letter that needs a diacritical mark. A list of options appears above the letter. Use the cursor to choose the desired mark.

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 3.53.52 PM.png

Method 2: Remember the word OPTION.** Pushing the OPTION key simultaneously with the letter needing needing augmentation will often provide the symbol or mark you want: Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.43.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.48.00 PM This works with å, é, î, ø, ü and ñ.

4. If neither method works for your particular issue, go to a website like this for Spanish, or this for French. Type what you want, then copy and paste the text into your blog or document.  Voilà.

**P.S. Not all keyboards have an option key. For some it is the “Alt” key, or a symbol which looks like this:


    • Wow. Cool question. Turns out it can be labeled “Alt” on some models, although “Alt” and “Option” aren’t identical. Sometimes it’s a symbol that looks like a line with a line coming out below it. On my Macbook, it is on the bottom row of the keys, to the left, between “control” and “command.”


        • Works differently on a Dell. Either use the cut and paste options or try this (not so easy. Sorry.):
          1. Start with keyboard in NumLock mode. On some laptops, this might be accomplished by pressing the blue FN key and the NumLock key. This changes a set of keys, also with blue numbers on them and usually in the 7-8-9-U-I-O area, into a numeric keypad.
          2. Hold down the ALT key and enter the number on the numeric keypad.

          Spanish Set

          for é 130
          for á 160
          for í 161
          for ó 162
          for ú 163
          for ñ 164
          for Ñ 165
          for ¿ 168
          for ¡ 173
          for Á 0193
          for É 0201
          for Í 0205
          for Ó 0211
          for Ú 0218

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you so much for that info. I appreciate it! I’ve used the cut and paste method thus far, but this gives me another option. Thank you. 🙂


  • Cool! I have to use accents and diacriticals a lot in my work, and after much searching over the years, the site below is one of my favorites for easily finding the main ones I need. It’s just for Macs, though:

    It taught me all kinds of nifty things, like ¢, ˚ (for recipes), etc.!

    P.S. The option key is otherwise known as the Alt key, the second key over to the left from the space bar. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Thanks. I kept having to type accents and forgetting how to do it. Maybe now it will stick. Thanks also for the “Alt” tip. My laptop says “option,” plain and simple.


  • I am a real sticker for those little things: ‘naïve’ and so forth. I use an antediluvian Windows machine and whenever I need to use a word with an umlaut or some such I type the word minus the umlaut into the search box and then copy the correctly recorded word as found, adding it to my dictionary as I go. It seems pretty efficient, though I really ought work out how to do it within Windows I suppose – per your response to Carrie above.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Might have to do a second post on strategies for non-mac users.

      I transcribe oral histories, and work with an editor who never misses a mark. It’s a game for me to try to catch all the grammar, all the capitalization, all the umlauts before she does. Someday.

      Love the word antediluvian. Reminds me of the singer Donoven.


  • It took me a while to find it on my word doc but after playing around and clicking on “insert” and scrolling down to “symbols” there they were. Now I can do it directly but first I have to remember to stop by here for a review. Tech stuff is my weak area. 😉


  • Good tips! I work with some documents with diacritical letters and I do have cheat-sheet when about typing the letters 😀 I learn new terms today – Troglodyte! Thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

  • My kids are Mac users–and I use one in my music studio, but for writing, I’m PC only–but for a good chunk of time I recall hearing how my daughter struggled trying to find an umlaut on any computer in order to sign her name ‘correctly.’
    I think she cursed me for having given her name something so “funky and unnecessary.” That is until it became distinct and cool to her in her teens.
    Thanks for the super useful tips, J.B.!

    Liked by 1 person

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