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Using Symbols and Diacritical Marks on macOS

A diacritical mark is often used by foreign languages and fireside poets to denote an accent on a letter. For instance, you will be marked down on a French paper for writing apercu instead of aperçu, and where would political theorists be without being able to distinguish between role and rôle?

To type diacritics in a Mac, first hold down the Option key on the keyboard and then strike a regular character key as indicated below. To create a ç and some other characters, this is all you need. Hold down shift as well as option if you want to make a capital Ç. This process is denoted below as Option + c (or C).

For some marks, such as the ´ or the ˆ, a highlighted accent with no letter will appear on your screen at this point. Release both keys, and then type the letter which you want to carry the diacritical, and the letter should appear. Alternatively, you can press and hold the letter which you wish to add a diacritical mark to, and an accent menu will appear from which you can press the number that corresponds to the desired character.

Below is a table of common diacritical marks and symbols:

Common character accents & symbols
Diacritical Name Appearance Key Command
Acute á, é, í Option + e, then the letter you wish to accent.
Grave è, à, ù Option + `, then the letter you wish to accent.
Tilde ñ Ñ Option + n, then the letter you wish to accent.
Circumflex ê Ê Option + i, then the letter you wish to accent.
Umlaut ä Ä ö Ö ü Ü Option + u, then the letter you wish to accent.
Cedilla ç Ç Option + c or C
Inverted Question Mark ¿ Option + ?
Inverted Exclamation Mark ¡ Option + 1
Esszet ß Option + s
Pound £ Option + 3
Cents ¢ Option + 4
Pilcrow (paragraph) Option + 7
Section § Option + 6
Degree º Option + 0
Copyright © Option + g
Delta Option + j
Bullet Option + 8

To find many other characters and symbols, choose Key Caps from the Apple menu (in OS 9) or Applications > Utilities (in OS X) for a diagram of your keyboard and selecting, for instance, Wingdings. You will see the characters or symbols as they would appear on your keyboard if you had switched to that font in your word processing program. Hit Caps Lock to see even more symbols. Highlight the characters that you want to use in the Key Caps window, copy them (Command + c) and paste them into your document (Command + v).

For more information and for a keyboard map of common symbols, visit the Apple Support page.