Type accented characters accent, grave, circumflex, tilde, umlaut, dieresis or cedilla in Microsoft Word and Outlook when they aren’t on the keyboard such as
á ã à ä Ç ç ē é ê è ë â ê î ô û and many more.
Typing accented letters can be a chore and a mystery, especially for those of us unaccustomed to languages with the ‘extra’ letters. The keyboards don’t show accented letters and it’s not obvious how to type them.
Office and Windows let you enter almost any character, if you know the magic spell.
It’s good to get a name or word exactly right, if only as a courtesy to the reader.
The real easy way, especially with names, is to copy the word (with accented characters) from some source document or incoming email.
This ensures you get it right and saves having to work out the keyboard shortcuts to make an accent letter.
Sometimes you don’t have to do anything! Office may add some accented characters for you automatically using the in-built AutoCorrect list.
In English language versions of Office you’ll probably see some of these:
Type cafe and Office will change it to café
same with fiance becoming fiancé
Common accents have shortcuts in Office generally (Word and Outlook which uses Word as its email editor).
The shortcuts have been there for a long time and the main four are quite logical. An easy way to remember them is … you hold the Ctrl and Shift keys down while pressing the character that represents the type of accent you want.
Ctrl and Shift plus ^ (caret, usually above the 6 key) then the letter ‘a’ will produce an a with caret above it eg â .
Ctrl + Shift + : (colon) then either a, e ,I, o, u will produce that letter with a umlaut above it (which looks like a colon on its side) eg â, ê ,î , ô, û .
The same shortcut works for the accent and grave using the apostrophe and grave (usually on top left of the keyboard, below the ~ tilde).
Ctrl + ^ or
Ctrl + Shift + ^ ? You’ll see the same shortcut written both ways.
Strictly speaking the shortcut is
Ctrl + ^ but in practice you have to press the Shift key to enter the grave character above the 6 key … so the shortcut is
Ctrl + Shift + ^ for most keyboards.
Here’s a simplified list of the main accent shortcuts in large type on the right
Ctrl + Shift + the accent shortcut key. As you can see, the shortcut key (roughly) matches how the accent looks – which makes them easy to remember:
Another option for inserting accent or other characters is on the Insert | Symbols | Symbol. Choose More Symbols then scroll down to find the character you want.
If there is a shortcut for the symbol it will be displayed and even a full name.
In 2022, Windows PowerToys added a Quick Accent tool to (at long last) make it easy to type accented characters in Windows 11 and Windows 10.
See Two new PowerToys useful for Office users for details.
Most fonts will include accented characters but some might not, especially the free fonts you can download from websites.
If you try to insert a character that doesn’t exist in that font you’ll see a small black rectangle in older versions of Office. Modern Office has a little font substitution trick which switches to a font which has that character- see Word’s symbol substitution, the good and the bad
To see the range of letters available in a font, go to Insert | Symbols | Symbol, choose the font and scroll through the list.
For non-Office programs you have other choices for entering accented characters.
Windows Character Map – is a Windows system accessory usually found on the Start Menu, if you search for Character Map. It is a lot like the Insert Symbol feature except you can choose characters then copy them to the clipboard for pasting in any Windows program.
On-Screen or Virtual Keyboard – we have a special article about the Windows on-screen keyboard which lets you see keyboards for different languages. If you regularly type words from another language the on-screen keyboard might be helpful.
Another option is to write the words you want, with accents, in Word then copy/paste them into the other program.
Two new PowerToys useful for Office users
Seven new languages for Word & Outlook Dictation
Inside new Natural Language Search for Outlook
Two ways to find accented letters in Word
Laundry care symbols typed in Word, Excel and PowerPoint