06 May 2011

Typing European Names Containing Diacritical or Accent Marks

The other day I wanted to type Finnish surnames accurately into an e-mail message. The Finnish alphabet has two letters with diacritical or accent marks: ä and ö (also the upper case versions: Ä and Ö). I was working in my e-mail client Outlook 2003 and there was no way to insert these characters as there is in Word 2003 (using the drop-down “insert symbol” table). Finally, I remembered that years ago I had printed out a little cheat sheet for using the Alt key and coding to do the job. The solution was to key in Alt 132 for ä, Alt 142 for Ä, Alt 148 for ö, and Alt 153 for Ö.

But the situation piqued my interest. What did I need to know about typing special characters when they occurred in Swedish names and words? In German names and words? I went to Google and searched for “type accent marks Finnish.”

The first search result gave me a website called Vistawide World Languages & Cultures at http://www.vistawide.com/languages/typing_foreign_language_characters.htm.

The introduction to this website stated:

How to type foreign language characters

Instructions for typing special characters, otherwise known as diacritical marks, in foreign languages follow below. These include the accent, circumflex, grave, tilde, and umlaut, as well as ligatures, rings, slashes, and special punctuation marks.

Languages included here have Latin-based alphabets and do not require the installation of additional utilities and fonts [my boldfacing].

The website presented a complete table for typing special characters—by language—not only for Windows (PC), but also for the Mac, and for HTML (which would be useful for adding Finnish and other surnames that include diacritical marks to my website at www.huskonen.com ).

Needless to say, I immediately made this one of my Favorites. I will refer to it whenever I am working with surnames spelled with diacritical marks. 

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