Accent Marks, ñ, and Other Symbols

If you can switch to Spanish in your word processing software, it may auto-correct you when you type by adding the right Spanish symbols as appropriate — the accent marks over vowels, the tilde (that squiggly mark over the soft “n”), and even upside-down question marks and exclamation marks (¿ and ¡). Test it out and see if it works. For questions and exclamations, try starting with a regular question mark or exclamation mark — the symbol should flip upside-down automatically.

If you don't have Spanish as a language option, or if your paper is mostly in English but requires the use of Spanish passages, you'll need to learn the shortcuts for inserting the right symbols and accents as you type.

On a PC

One way to insert accent marks, ñ, ¿, and ¡ is by using the Symbol menu usually found on the toolbar under the Tools category. Scroll down to find the right symbol, click on it, and press Insert. You'll see it appear in the document.

Another option is to use a series of shortcut key strokes. To add an accent mark, first press down and release two keys: Control + ' (apostrophe). Then type in the vowel that you wish to accent: a, e, i, o, or u. To key in ñ, press down Control + ~ (this is actually three keys, since ~ is a combination of Shift + `). Release and type in “n.” If á, é, í, ó, ú, or ñ are capital letters, use Shift when you type a, e, i, o, u, or n.

To add an upside-down question mark, use the following key strokes: Shift + Control + Alt + ? If you need an upside-down exclamation mark, type in Shift + Control + Alt + ! And there's more good news — if you don't like these shortcuts, you may be able to make your own. Go back to that Symbol window and poke around.

On a Mac

If you're using the Mac version of Microsoft Word, the Symbol menu is pretty much identical — just look under Tools. But if you'd like to use the shortcut key strokes, they're slightly different.

To add an accent mark to a vowel, hold down Option + e; release, then type in the vowel that needs the accent — a, e, i, o, or u. Again, if the accented vowel is a capital letter, add the Shift key to the second step. To insert “ñ,” simply type in Option + n (or Option + Shift + n to get ñ).

And adding ¿ and ¡ is even easier. To get the upside-down question mark, type in Option + ? For the upside-down exclamation mark, use Option + 1.

ESSENTIAL

If you don't have access to Microsoft Word or a similar software program and you can't figure out how to add the accent marks and other symbols, print out your work and add the symbols in with a black pen — and don't forget to leave an extra space for the upside-down question marks and exclamation marks.

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