Inserting accent marks

There are times in writing when you have to deal with dreaded accent marks. I feel for you. I really do. I’ve typed enough French essays to cry cedillas. So here’s a handy list of accent mark names and how to insert the darn things in Microsoft Word.

Common accent marks:

  • á: accent acute
  • à: accent grave
  • å: bolle
  • ç: cedilla
  • â: circumflex
  • æ: ligature
  • œ: ligature
  • ø: streg
  • ñ: tilde
  • ä: umlaut

Inserting accent marks
When I’m working with accent marks, I use the old-fashioned long way of inserting them because I’m not one for memorizing a bunch of shortcuts.

The long way
In Microsoft Word, go to Insert, then Symbol. Select Advanced Symbol. A small screen will pop up with a list of letters with accent marks. Simply select the letter and corresponding mark you want and click Insert.

Of course, you can always use keyboard shortcuts, too.

For PC users, here’s a list of shortcuts:
accent acute: CTRL+’, the letter
accent grave: CTRL+`, the letter
æ ligature: CTRL+Shift+&, a, or A
bolle: CTRL+Shift+@, a, or A
cedilla: CTRL+(comma), c, or C
circumflex: CTRL+Shift+^, the letter
œ ligature: CTRL+Shift+&, o, or O
streg: CTRL+/, o, or O
tilde: CTRL+Shift+~, the letter
umlaut: CTRL+Shift+:, the letter

For Mac users, here’s what to do:
accent acute: Option+E, the letter
accent grave: Option+`, the letter
æ ligature: Shift+Option+’ (uppercase); Option+’ (lowercase)
bolle: Shift+Option+A, the letter (uppercase); Option+A (lowercase)
cedilla: Shift+Option+C (uppercase); Option+C (lowercase)
circumflex: Option+I, the letter
œ ligature: Shift+Option+Q (uppercase); Option+Q (lowercase)
streg: Shift+Option+O (uppercase); Option+O (lowercase)
tilde: Option+N, the letter
umlaut: Option+U, the letter


Here! Hear!

people toasting wine glasses

Photo by cottonbro on

When you raise your glass after an impressive speech, do you say “Here, here!” or “Hear, hear!”?

The correct phrase is: Hear, hear! That is, unless someone is asking, “Who wants more wine?” Then you can say, “Here, here!” and pound your fists on the table.

“Hear, hear!” simply means “hear him” or “hear her” and is a sign of approval of the previous speaker.

Imbibing around the world
To add some cultural flair the next time you toast, try doing it in another language. Below is a sampling of toasts across the globe.

Danish: Skål!

Finnish: Kippis!

French: Santé

German: Prost!

Icelandic: Skál!

Italian: Salute!

Malay: Sihat selalu!

Polish: Na zdrowie!

Romanian: Noroc!

Spanish: ¡Salud!

Tagalog: Mabuhay!

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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Lost in translation

Don’t use Google translate for your foreign language homework. Period. Sure, if you’re just looking for the general idea of a passage of foreign language text, this tool is nifty. However, translation is one area where it is best not to succumb to our robot overlords.

Translation technology has yet to surpass the skills of actual human translators with their years of study of grammar and syntax and how one language’s idioms translate into another’s.

Case in point: This video from CDZA takes the text from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s theme song and runs it through all languages on Google translate and then back into English. Hilarity ensues.



Still, it’s amazing that we have come as far as we have with computer translations. Here is a video by Google that explains how its translation program works.


If all else fails, you can fake your way through translation like British comedian Catherine Tate does in this video.

Or maybe not.

What does “prn” mean?

At my recent doctor’s appointment, she said, “You’ll just take this prn.” (She pronounced each letter: P-R-N.)

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means you’re supposed to take it as needed.”

Suspecting it was a Latin abbreviation, since we were in a medical setting, I asked her what the full-length Latin word/phrase was. She was unsure. She said she was just used to seeing it in the abbreviated form.

So, dear friends, I did an investigation. It took me perhaps twenty seconds, but still, it was an investigation nonetheless.

Prn is short for the Latin phrase “pro re nata.” The doctor was correct in that it means “for an occasion that has arisen; as needed.

Now you know.



How English sounds to everyone else

I got the idea for today’s post from the podcast A Way With Words. I’m super in love with this show, and I recommend it for everyone who is interested in English word origins and other language topics.

Native English speakers have ideas about how languages they do not speak sound. There are certain noises we can string together that imitate our idea of another language—noises that if we were to make to a speaker of that language would sound like gibberish.

Here’s a video of one English speaker speaking what he thinks sounds like several foreign languages:

 Ever wonder how English sounds to people who don’t speak it?

Youtube has a treasure trove of videos showing just this: English-sounding gibberish. Here’s a collection for you to enjoy.

This is a song made for Italian TV in which the singer sings entirely in sounds he interprets as sounding like English. (Also note the awesome background dancers!)

Here is a song in “fake” English from an Argentinian band:

Skwerl is a short film that plays with the same idea. In it, a couple speaks in “fake” English. One aspect I like about it is that even though they are not saying real words, the audience can still understand the emotions and ideas portrayed.

Here are more examples of foreign language speakers’ interpretation of English: