Microsoft Word tips and tricks

Shortcuts with the Dead Key Method for Inserting International Characters

Keyboard shortcuts are given for inserting accents, diacriticals, and special language characters into Word documents using a US English keyboard

If you have the usual standard US English keyboard but sometimes have to enter characters from Western languages with accented or other special letters , you can use several approaches. In this article, I will give shortcuts that use the so-called "dead key" combinations, which is probably the fastest method for some common Western European languages.

Inserting Accented and Other Special Characters

The "dead key" shortcut works like this:

  1. Press the Control key together with one or more other keys as shown in the table below
  2. Release the keys
  3. Press the desired letter

The table below gives the Dead Key combinations. For example, to produce a Cedilla, press the Control key together with the Comma key, release the keys, and then press C.

Type of character Character Press
Accent grave à, è, ì, ò, ù,
À, È, Ì, Ò, Ù
CTRL+` (BACK QUOTE), the letter
Acute accent á, é, í, ó, ú, ý
Á, É, Í, Ó, Ú, Ý
CTRL+' (APOSTROPHE), the letter
Circumflex â, ê, î, ô, û
Â, Ê, Î, Ô, Û
CTRL+SHIFT+^ (CARET), the letter
Tilde ã, ñ, õ
Ã, Ñ, Õ
CTRL+SHIFT+~ (TILDE), the letter
Umlaut or diaresis ä, ë, ï, ö, ü, ÿ,
Ä, Ë, Ï, Ö, Ü, Ÿ
CTRL+SHIFT+: (COLON), the letter
Aring å, Å CTRL+SHIFT+@, a or A
Ligatures æ, Æ CTRL+SHIFT+&, a or A
Ligatures œ, Œ CTRL+SHIFT+&, o or O
Cedilla ç, Ç CTRL+, (COMMA), c or C
Eth ð, Ð CTRL+' (APOSTROPHE), d or D
O with stroke ø, Ø CTRL+/, o or O
Inverted ? ¿ ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+?
Inverted ! ¡ ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+!
Sharp s ß CTRL+SHIFT+&, s

Other Methods

The "dead key" shortcuts are fast but limited in number. Many more ways to insert characters that are not on the keyboard are available with a combination of the Alt key and number codes from the Numeric keypad. This method is described at this link. It is a general method tht works in many Windows applications.

Another method with many more options uses the Windows Character Map, which is described in this article.