How To: Easy Keyboard Shortcuts For Accent Marks on Letters [Mac]

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keyboard shortcuts for languagesAre you a Mac user who hasn’t got around to working out shortcuts for special characters? You’re not alone. Most new Mac users work out a few quick shortcuts for their favourite tools and figure they’ll work out the rest later. Then they realise years down the track that later never comes!

Well, the good news is that special language characters are incredibly easy to do on a Mac. Once you get started you’ll see that it follows a simple pattern, making it easy to remember your favourites and to work out the less frequently used characters on the fly when you need them. When you truly get the hang of it, you’ll never want to go back to another operating system.

Why Learn Shortcuts For Accents?

The beauty of these shortcuts is that you’ll never need to switch keyboards again. Stay in whichever keyboard you prefer for everyday use and add accents when required. No more messing around with the character map either!

keyboard shortcuts for accent marks

Trust me, it’s far easier to stick with a QUERTY keyboard than it is to change to an AZERTY keyboard. Plus, if you’ve changed to a different keyboard you still need to remember where they put the accents you’re looking for.

shortcut letter accent marks

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The Trick

The key to remembering all of these patterns is realising that it follows a regular scheme. Each accent type is associated with a letter it’s often used with in writing. For instance, ´ is associated with e because é is more common than á or ó, while ¨ is associated with u. Obviously, this won’t always be the most common association, since languages are quite varied in accent usage, but it will eventually help you to recall which accent goes with which key.

The Shortcut Format

All of these shortcuts are built with the same keystroke pattern: You type and hold OPTION followed by the key for the accent type, then the letter you’d like with that accent.

For instance, the key to remember for the acute accent is e. Hold OPTION and press e, then type the character you want with the accent. So, OPTION and e followed by e gives you é, while OPTION and e and a gives you á. To write it as a capital, you’d use the shift when typing the letter. It’s a two part operation, so you’d type OPTION-e, followed by SHIFT-e to get É.

For some characters, you just need to hold OPTION and press the letter. For capitals, use OPTION-SHIFT-your choice.

Adding Accents Marks On Letters & Other Foreign Characters

Here’s the accent shortcuts in brief examples.

Acute Accent ´ – á é í ó ú

OPTION e followed by a vowel.

Grave Accent ` – à è ì ò ù

OPTION ` followed by a vowel.

Umlaut/Tréma ¨ – ä ë ï ö ü ÿ

OPTION u followed by a vowel or y.

Circumflex ˆ- â ê î ô û

OPTION i followed by a vowel.

Tilde Ëœ – ñ õ ã

OPTION n followed by n, o or a.

Nordic ø

OPTION o.

Nordic å

OPTION a.

Cedilla/Cedille Р̤

OPTION c.

OE ligature Å“

OPTION q.

AE ligature æ

OPTION ‘.

Foreign Punctuation

Spanish/French Quotation Marks « »

OPTION \ and OPTION SHIFT \.

Upside Down Exclamation Mark ¡

OPTION 1.

Upside Down Question Mark ¿

OPTION ? (Which is really OPTION SHIFT /).

Money Symbols

Euro Symbol €

OPTION SHIFT 2.

British Pound £

OPTION 3.

Cent Symbol ¢

OPTION 4.

Yen Symbol ¥

OPTION y.

More Methods & Symbols

There are plenty more symbols to be found this way. Mac OS X help pages suggest using the keyboard viewer to find new combinations. To set this up, do to Apple Menu > System Preferences > International.

keyboard language shortcut

Then ensure Character Palette and Keyboard Viewer are turned on.

keyboard language shortcut

To open Keyboard Viewer, go to the international flag on the right of your menu bar and choose Show Keyboard Viewer.

Now, you’ll be able to type and hold OPTION and see all the shortcut possibilities. It’s also an easy reminder if you forget one of your favourites.

keyboard shortcuts for languages

Character Map might also come in handy if you’ve forgotten the shortcuts.

More Mac OS X Shortcuts & Tips

Obviously you’re a fan of MacOS shortcuts and language settings, so here’s some more great articles you’ll love.

If you’ve got any great tricks for managing multiple languages in Mac OS X, let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: ShutterStock

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Comments (5)
  • Chips Chapman

    Nice, comprehensive article, Angela.

    I suggest also selecting both the U.S. & U.S. Extended keyboards for the Input Menu from the International System Preference, particularly if you use an English / US keyboard or type in English. The U.S. keyboard uses Roman script, while the U.S. Extended uses Unicode. The option key activates different characters with the different keyboards. There are more accents with the US Extended. Theses differences may pertain to other language keyboards (e.g. Irish), but I haven’t tried them.

    I like to use option-v for ” ? ” (square root / check mark) from the US keyboard. The US Extended keyboard types the caron ” ? ” accent with option-v. And option-shift-k is ” ? ” on the US, while it is ” ? ” on the US Extended. (I hope these examples will display correctly…)

    I also note a small error for the AE ligature æ noted above. The key to press is ” ‘ ” (single quote), not ” ` ” (grave accent) (regardless of which US keyboard).

    HTH!

    Chips

  • Chips Chapman

    Nice, comprehensive article, Angela.

    I suggest also selecting both the U.S. & U.S. Extended keyboards for the Input Menu from the International System Preference, particularly if you use an English / US keyboard or type in English. The U.S. keyboard uses Roman script, while the U.S. Extended uses Unicode. The option key activates different characters with the different keyboards. There are more accents with the US Extended. Theses differences may pertain to other language keyboards (e.g. Irish), but I haven’t tried them.

    I like to use option-v for ” √ ” (square root / check mark) from the US keyboard. The US Extended keyboard types the caron ” ˇ ” accent with option-v. And option-shift-k is ”  ” on the US, while it is ” Ëš ” on the US Extended. (I hope these examples will display correctly…)

    I also note a small error for the AE ligature æ noted above. The key to press is ” ‘ ” (single quote), not ” ` ” (grave accent) (regardless of which US keyboard).

    HTH!

    Chips

  • James Bruce

    Just as a note, some of these are country-specific. For instance, OPTION+3 gives me # instead, so definately worth bring up the character map to see what your own specifics are.

  • James Bruce

    Just as a note, some of these are country-specific. For instance, OPTION+3 gives me # instead, so definately worth bring up the character map to see what your own specifics are.

  • Chips Chapman

    Nice, comprehensive article, Angela.

    I suggest also selecting both the U.S. & U.S. Extended keyboards for the Input Menu from the International System Preference, particularly if you use an English / US keyboard or type in English. The U.S. keyboard uses Roman script, while the U.S. Extended uses Unicode. The option key activates different characters with the different keyboards. There are more accents with the US Extended. Theses differences may pertain to other language keyboards (e.g. Irish), but I haven’t tried them.

    I like to use option-v for ” √ ” (square root / check mark) from the US keyboard. The US Extended keyboard types the caron ” ˇ ” accent with option-v. And option-shift-k is ”  ” on the US, while it’s ” Ëš ” on the US Extended. There are a few others. (I hope these examples will display correctly…)

    I also note a small error for the AE ligature æ noted above. The key to press is ” ‘ ” (single quote), not ” ` ” (regardless of which US keyboard).

    HTH!

    Chips

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.