Formatting Tip: Diacritics

Posted December 15, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Formatting Tips, Self-Editing, Writing

Diacritics are marks added to letters and are very handy to know about — especially if you’re including terms or phrases from a foreign language in an e-version of your story or report.

NOTE: Back in the days of the manual typewriter, using diacritics wasn’t possible. With computers, it’s very possible. You must use foreign language diacritics; leaving them off introduces a change in the meaning of the word, for example:

poisson salé salted fish
poisson sale dirty fish
tâche quotidienne daily task
tache quotidienne daily stain
blessé et volé wounded and robbed
blesse et vole wounds and robs
maï éclaté non beurré mais caramelisé caramel-coated, non-buttered popcorn
mais eclate non beurre mais caramelise but explodes not butter but caramelizes

Ensuring Upper- and Lowercase Diacritics are Possible

<!DOCTYPE html>
<meta charset=”UTF-8″></head>

The Universal Multiple-Octet Coded Character Set (ISO/IEC 10646; UCS) was adopted by the ISO as “the first standardized character set designed to cover all the languages in the world.

It is supported natively by the most recent operating systems (MS Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, etc.). It is also used on the Internet with the help of UTF-8 (eight-bit encoded Unicode Transformation Format). HTML 4 supports UTF-8. HTML 5 supports both UTF-8 (the default) and UTF-16!

Creating Symbols

The method of coding can also be used to create symbols, which can come in very handy: &cent; lets you have your 2¢, although with inflation, that’s probably gone up to 2€ (&euro;) or even 293.19 ¥ (&yen;).

A symbol commonly used by writers is the copyright, or &copy; to create a ©. Fractions can be amazingly handy as well, well at least ½ to ¾ of the time (&frac12; and &frac34;). If you’re working up some non-fiction, particularly government regulations or legal references, you may find § handy (&sect;).

Some other terms that mean diacritic include diacritical marks, diacritical point, diacritical sign, basic glyph, glyph, and accent.

Formatting Tips started…

…as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with words that should have been capitalized or italicized, in quotes or not, what should be spelled out and what can be abbreviated, proper styling for the Latin names of plants, the proper formatting and usage of titles and more in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this style tip with friends by tweeting it.

Credit to: Crystal, 242-43; Academie-fran&ccedil:aise; Cultural and Linguistic Characteristics of Québec
Definition: A mark or sign indicating a difference in pronunciation.

I’m not going to reproduce all the possibilities as there are plenty of websites out there that will provide the code you want; although, not every site that provides a table of codes will have every code, letter, symbol, etc., that you want.

Some sites that I’ve found useful include,’s HTML Codes — HTML Special Characters, Penn State’s Unicode Entity Codes for Phonetic Diacritics, Alan Wood’s Greek and Coptic, and University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Extended Latin. Surprisingly, Wikipedia’s article on Diacritic is quite good, and their entry on Macrons is also useful.

At worst, google for ascii code or character code to find more.

Other diacritical marks include breves, carons, Greek, hachek, diaereses, ligatures with an acute accent, over and under dots, triple under dots (!), ring, slashes with an acute accent, and those are just the simple ones!
Letter Mark Code
acute &aacute;
cedilla &#350;
î circumflex &icirc;
À grave &Agrave;
macron &#257;
ø slash &oslash;
ö umlaut &ouml;
a-e or o-e ligature &AElig;, or &508;
Make Your Own:
Each type of diacritic can be “forced” on a letter creating a “homemade” diacritic by typing the letter in front of a base code particular to that diacritic.
For a… Mark Base Code
(letter + code)
b with a caron b&#780;

V or c with a macron V&#772;
Some Fun &/or Useful Symbols
Symbol Mark Code
irony punctuation mark &#11822;
ə schwa phonetic symbol &#601;
right pointing index finger in white &#9758;
¾ three-fourths &frac34;
therefore &there4;
ß eszett, or “sharp S” &szlig;
× multiplication &#215;
😉 winking face &#x1f609;

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