Diacritical marks are symbols that are 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 character map.
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)
(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 Polish. 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 (eth) to 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, 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 English. 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 only.
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. 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 German. Example: 0252 (lowercase u with umlaut above)
Punctuation 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 Spanish. 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 Spanish. Example: 0171 (open guillemets); 0187 (close guillemets)
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