The Secrets of Diaeresis or Umlaut in Word

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Typing words with a diaeresis or umlaut in Word for Windows, Mac, Apple or Android.  They aren’t normally needed in English except some organizations that require diaeresis for words like:

  • naïve 
  • coöperate 
  • reëlect
  • Brontë
  • Noël
  • Noël Coward

Or you might be typing in another language where the umlaut makes a difference to the meaning,

Diaeresis/umlaut doesn’t work for all letters – only vowels plus letter y

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ä Ä  ë Ë  ï Ï  ö Ö  ü Ü  ÿ Ÿ

For most English speakers, there’s no practical difference between a diaeresis and an umlaut … if you’re curious we’ve added an explanation below.

Diaeresis/Umlaut shortcut

Word for Windows has a special umlaut/diaeresis shortcut.

On other platforms there are shortcuts built into the operating system – Mac, iPhone and iPad handle accented characters very well.

Word for Windows & Mac has AutoCorrect which can fix your commonly used words to add diaeresis/umlaut.

Word & Outlook for Windows

Winword has an in-built shortcut to add a diaeresis to any letter.

It’s a prefix shortcut that you type before the letter.

  1. Hold down Ctrl + Shift then press the Colon  (  Ctrl + Shift + : ) . 
    1. Strictly the shortcut is Ctrl + :  but most keyboards need the Shift to type a colon.
  2. Type the letter you want, any vowel or Y

ä Ä  ë Ë  ï Ï  ö Ö  ü Ü  ÿ Ÿ

Like magic the letter appears with a little umlaut above it.

Ctrl + Shift + : , a  types  ä

Ctrl + Shift + : , e types  ë

Ctrl + Shift + :  , i  types  ï

Ctrl + Shift + : , o  types  ö

Ctrl + Shift + : , u  types  ü

Ctrl + Shift + : , y  types  ÿ

Autocorrect

For commonly used words, Autocorrect is the easiest way to automatically add a diaeresis where needed. 

Add an Autocorrect entry to convert the plain spelling word into the diaeresis version.

It’s easiest to type the word correctly, with diaeresis, then copy it to the clipboard before going to AutoCorrect.  Go to  Options | Proofing | AutoCorrect Options (Windows) or  Tools | Autocorrect options (Mac)

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The word in the clipboard should be automatically pasted into the ‘With’ field. 

Type the word (without umlaut) into the Replace field.

Word & Outlook for Mac

There’s no equivalent shortcut on Word for Mac, because there’s a better solution in the MacOS which works for all Mac programs.

  1. Hold down the Option key then press the letter u  (u for Umlaut)
  2. Then type the letter you want to have a diaeresis over.

Option + u , a  types  ä

Option + u , e types  ë

Option + u , i  types  ï

Option + u , o  types  ö

Option + u , u  types  ü

Option + u , y  types  ÿ

And so on for the capital letters.

Word for iPhone or iPad

On iOS devices, iPhone or iPad, the virtual keyboard has accented characters in-built.

Simple hold down the letter key and the accented alternatives will appear as a pop-up list.

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Word for iPad

If you have an external keyboard, the standard MacOS keyboard shortcut will work, as mentioned above.  I.E.  type Option+u then the letter  .

Office for iPad: The Complete Guide has a lot more about Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the iPad.

Word for Android

The abilities of Android virtual keyboards depend on the manufacturer.  In most cases, holding down the letter key will display the accent or other options, including umlaut/diaeresis.

Microsoft Swiftkey has that feature but it seems to default off for English users.  Turn it on from Settings | Layout and keys | Accented Characters.

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Searching for letters or words with diaeresis

By default Find will NOT find an word with umlaut or diaeresis unless you type the accented letter into the search. 

For example, you have the word “ reëlect  ” in the document.

Searching for ‘reelect’ will NOT find “ reëlect “ .

The simplest solution is to use Word’s special wildcards in Find.  These work in the standard Find box as well as Advanced Find.

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Search for “ re^$lect” will find any word starting with ‘re’ and ending with ‘lect’ with a single letter in between. 

^$  tells Word to accept any letter as a match.

It will find both reelect’ and “ reëlect “ but also spelling errors like “rellect” or “realect”

See Two ways to find accented letters in Word for more.

Diaeresis only

There is a separate diaeresis character, if for some reason you want it.

Unicode 00A8   is Diaeresis ¨

in Word, type that with the old Alt + X trick.

Under the hood

Technically, a letter with diaeresis is a separate character. 

A plain letter a is Unicode 061  while   ä is Unicode 00E4 (decimal 228)

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Difference between umlaut and Diaeresis

While the two terms are used interchangeably in English, there is a difference between Diaeresis and Umlaut.

Diaeresis – is an English language term for the ‘double dots’ above the second of two vowels.  It confirms that the second vowel is another syllable.

Often the diaeresis is omitted but sticklers for the language (like The New Yorker) insist on it.

They have a point “ cooperation “ can read like ‘coop-eration’ (something to do with a chicken coop?) but cooperation makes it clearer.  But then so does co-operation !

Umlaut – is used in German to mark a different pronunciation, umlaut means ‘around sound’ in Deutsch. Unlike in English, a German Umlaut can change the meaning of a word …

  • Sage (legend)  –  Säge (saw/hacksaw)
  • Bar (bar) – Bär (bear)
  • Mucke (slang for music) – Mücke (mosquito)
  • Hocker (stool) – Höcker (hump)

Or as part of converting singular to plural:

  • Haus-Häuser
  • Mann-Männer
  • Wand- Wände

Many thanks to Gabi S. and her friends for the Deutsch vocabulary and spelling help!

More about Diaeresis / Umlaut

Wikipedia

The New Yorker – The Curse of the Diaeresis

The History of the Umlaut and the Diaeresis

See Also …

Two ways to find accented letters in Word
Doing Accented Characters in Access
WTF? Word’s Alphabetical order is different from a dictionary!
The trick to Find or Replace web links in Word
Word’s Find can’t find all Unicode symbols and emoji
More Word Find / Search tricks
Find pane search secrets in Word

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