Mac tip: Type letters with accent marks on a Mac keyboard

Angela writes: Saw your tip on how to type letters with accents on an iPhone, but how do I do it on a Mac? I’ve just been copying and pasting, which isn’t very efficient. Can you help?

Hi Angela! Great question—and to be perfectly honest, I’ve just been copying and pasting accent marks (or “diacritic” marks, to get technical about it) too. There must be an easier way, and you’ve inspired me to find one.

Say you want to end up with “á.” Press and hold the Option key, press the “e” key, then release. When you do, you’ll see an acute accent (the “´”) with an underscore. Now, press the “a” key, and the acute accent will land on top of the “a”, like so: “á.”

Here are the five Option- keys for accent marks available on the Mac’s standard U.S. English keyboard:

  • Option + ` = ` (grave accent)
  • Option + e = ´ (acute accent)
  • Option + u = ¨ (umlaut)
  • Option + i = ^ (circumflex)
  • Option + n = ~ (tilde)

Update: …and here’s an even easier way to add accent marks to letters on your Mac.

Bonus tips

  • You can also add other regional keyboards with more esoteric accent marks to your Mac’s palate. Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the screen, select System Preferences, click Keyboard, select the Input Sources tab, then click the “+” sign to see a list of keyboards that you can install.
  • Want an easier way to visualize the keyboard combos for accent marks? Follow the steps directly above to get to the Keyboard preferences, select the Keyboard tab, then check the box next to “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in menu bar. Click the new, boxy Keyboard button in the top-right corner of the screen, select Keyboard Viewer, and boom: an on-screen version of the keyboard will appear. Press and hold the Option key, to highlight the accent modifier keys in yellow.

Note: Want to add accent marks to letters on a Windows PC? It can be done, but not all that easily. Here’s a guide from Penn State with a quartet of options, all of which required some tinkering with your system settings.

Click here for more Mac tips!

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