Diacritical Marks Described and Explained

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Diacritical marks are symbols added to letters of the alphabet to indicate different pronunciation than the letters are usually given. This article describes the most common diacritical symbols, as well as some punctuation marks commonly used in French, Italian, and Spanish.

The examples given below are ANSI values, as shown in the Windows 3.1 character map.
Mark         Description

acute accent   A little diagonal line, used over a vowel. Usually
               indicates which syllable is stressed. Slants from upper
               right down to lower left. Used in French, Hungarian,
               Portuguese, and Spanish.

               Example: 0225 (accent over lowercase A)

breve          (BREEV) A curved mark over a vowel. Used to indicate a
               short vowel or a short or unstressed syllable.
               (Sometimes referred to as a "smiley face.") Used in
               Latin and Turkish.

               No example in standard Windows character set.

caret          (CARE-et) The "hat" symbol found on the "6" key. See
               also circumflex. Used in French and Portuguese.

               Example: 0226 (lowercase A with caret above)

caron          See hacek.

cedilla        (sih-DIL-uh) A tiny curved symbol, like a backward "c,"
               placed at the bottom of a letter to indicate a
               different pronunciation (as in the French word
               "facade"). Used in French.

               Example: 0231 (cedilla beneath lowercase C)

circumflex     A mark such as the caret or tilde, placed over a vowel
               to indicate various pronunciations. Used in French and

               Example: 0226 (circumflex above lowercase A)

diaeresis      (deye-ER-uh-suhs) The two dots that appear over a vowel
(or dieresis)  to show that the vowel is pronounced in a separate
               syllable (as in the word "naive," with the diaeresis
               over the i). Looks like an umlaut.

               Example: 0239 (diaeresis above lowercase I)

digraph        See ligature.

edh            (ETH) A letter used in Icelandic and Old English to
(or eth)       represent a particular sound, usually "th". Looks
               like a "d" tilted to the left, with a horizontal line
               across the vertical stroke of the d.

               Example: 0240

grave accent   (GRAYV or GRAHV) The diagonal line that appears above
               a vowel. Slants from upper left to lower right (the
               reverse of the acute accent). Used in Ancient Greek,
               French, and Italian.

               Example: 0224 (grave accent above lowercase A)

hacek          (HAH-check) Looks like an upside-down caret, or a
               small "v". Placed above vowels and some consonants.
               Used in many Eastern European languages.

               Example: 0154 (s with hacek above). Not available as
               a separate character with any of the fonts that ship
               with Microsoft Windows.

Hungarian      Two acute accents or prime marks. Used above a letter,
umlaut         usually O or U. Used in Hungarian.

               No example in ANSI character set.

ligature       A character that resembles two characters joined
               together, as in AE, fl, or OE. Used in Latin and

               Example: 0198 (uppercase AE ligature).

macron         (MAY-krahn or MAH-kruhn) A horizontal line over a
               vowel to indicate that the vowel is to be pronounced
               stressed or long. Used in Latin.

               Example: 0175. Available as a separate character

ogonek         A small mark placed beneath a letter. Generally under
               E and A. Different reference books use different
               marks. Used in Polish.

               No example available in ANSI character set.

Polish cedilla See ogonek.

ring           Hollow circle above a vowel. Used mainly in
(or volle)     Scandinavian languages.

               Example: 0229 (lowercase a with ring above)

tilde          Placed over a letter to denote the "nyuh" sound (as in
               the Spanish word "senora," with the tilde over the n),
               or over a vowel to indicate nasality (as in the
               Portuguese word "irma," with the tilde over the a).

               Example: 0227 (lowercase A with tilde above)

umlaut         Two dots placed above a vowel to indicate a partial
               assimilation to a succeeding sound. Used primarily in

               Example: 0252 (lowercase U with umlaut above)

Mark         Description

ellipsis       Also called points of suspension; consists of three
               periods set close together. Often used to indicate an
               interruption or pause. Used mainly in French and

               Example: three periods in a row.

em dash        Looks like a long hyphen. Used like quotation marks.
               Used mainly in French, Italian, and Spanish.

               Example: 0151

guillemet      (gee-yuh-MAY) Also called chevron. Looks like two
               closely-spaced greater-than or less-than symbols. Used
               like quotation marks. Used in French, Italian, and

               Example: 0171 (open guillemets); 0187 (close


Microsoft Bookshelf 1992

"The Chicago Manual of Style," Thirteenth Edition, pages 253-279, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago: 1982

"Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary," Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts: 1990

"Words Into Type," Third Edition, Prentice Hall, New Jersey: 1974


Article ID: 98999 - Last Review: May 27, 2014 - Revision: 2.0
Applies to
  • Microsoft Windows 3.1 Standard Edition
Retired KB Content Disclaimer
This article was written about products for which Microsoft no longer offers support. Therefore, this article is offered "as is" and will no longer be updated.

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