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Formatting Information — An introduction to typesetting with LATEX

Chapter 1: Writing documents

Section 1.9: Accents

For accented letters in Latin-alphabet languages, use the accented keys from your keyboard.

  • If you can’t see any (eg United States (US) and UK keyboards), they are probably available using the AltGr key or some other control key combination: see the documentation which came with your operating system.

  • If you really don’t have any, you can use your computer’s or editor’s character map to pick them from a pop-up window (may be under the InsertSpecial Characters menu).

  • If you can’t find the right combination of keystrokes to generate the characters you want, or you simply can’t generate those characters from your keyboard, use Table 1.3 below.

For language-specific hyphenation and cultural adaptation (including the correct language headings for all the parts of your document) use the babel or polyglossia packages (see § 1.10.6 below).

For non-Latin typefaces you will also need the appropriate package for the language and the fonts which actually contain the characters (see § 6.2 below).

Failing all this, if you don’t have accented letter keys on your keyboard, or you can’t find the codes to type, or if you need additional accents or symbols which are not in any of the keyboard tables, you can use the symbolic notation in Table 1.3 below. In fact this can be used to put any accent over any letter (for example, Welsh users can get a ŵ with \^w), even for combinations which only rarely exist in any language: if you particularly want a g̃, for example, you can have one with the command \~g.

Table 1.3: Symbolic notation for Latin-alphabet accents

AccentExampleCharacters to type
Acute (fada)é\'e
Umlaut or diæresisë\"e
Bar-undero\b o
Dot-over (séıṁıú)\.m
Dot-under\d s
Breveŭ\u u
Háček (caron)ň\v n
Long umlautő\H o
Tie-aftero͡o\t oo
Cedillaç, Ç\c c, \c C
O-E ligatureœ, Œ\oe, \OE
A-E ligatureæ, Æ\ae, \AE
A-ringå, Å\aa, \AA
O-slashø, Ø\o, \O
Soft-lł, Ł\l, \L
Ess-zet (scharfes-s)ß\ss

Before the days of keyboards and screens with their own real accented characters, the symbolic notation in Table 1.3 above was the only way to get accents, so you may come across a lot of older documents (and users!) using this method all the time: it does have the advantage in portability that the LATEX file remains plain ASCII, which will work on all machines everywhere, regardless of their internal encoding, and even with very old TEX installations.

Irish and Turkish dotless-ı can be done with the special command \i, so an í (which is normally typed with í) may require \'\i{} if you need to type it in the long format — remembering that dummy pair of curly braces if there is no punctuation, because of the rule that LATEX control sequences which end in a letter always absorb any following space (see the note ‘Three rules for spacing in LATEX documents’ above). So what you see as Rí Teaṁraċ (‘King of Tara’) when typeset would have to be R\'\i\ Tea\.mra\.c when typed in full (there are not usually any dedicated keyboard keys for the dotless-ı or for aspirated or lenited characters). A similar rule applies to dotless-ȷ and to uppercase Í.

  1. Remember not everyone is lucky enough to be able to install new software: many users on business and academic networks still use old versions of TEX because they or their system managers don’t know how to update them. Local user groups may be able to provide help and support here.