Tom Mathews


. For a summary of the rules for when to use an accent mark in Spanish, go here.

        Please get in the habit of using the computer to type accent marks and do it as you type. This is much easier and more porfessional than going back over a document and adding the marks afterwards. All word processors are capable of doing proper accent marks in Spanish. Almost all printers are capable of printing them. If you have a printer that will not do it, use one of the Computer Labs on campus to print your compositions. 
        Below are some instructions that might help. You will only need to do this process once; your word processor will remember how you have set up these special characters.

        The best option is to install a Spanish Keyboard in Windows. This will allow you to use accent marks in ANY program on the computer, including the desktop, file names, graphics and word processing. The layout on a Spanish Keyboard is different (that is, many symbols are in different places than they are on the English Keyboard).

         To install the Spanish Keyboard on Windows, click first on "Start" and then open the "Control Panel."

         Once there click on "Region and Language."

         Now select the "Keyboards and Languages" tab at the top of the new window and then click on "Change keyborads..." The large white box contains a list of the languages and keyboards you have installed.

         To add a Spanish keyboard, click on "ADD".

         There is a long list of Spanish spell-checkers available. Any one will do, but I suggest "Spanish (International Sort)" which will alphabetize lists the correct (modern) way. Under the language name you will see "Keyboard" and "Other." Check the "Spanish" keyboard.

         Click "OK" to exit the control panel.

Now (perhaps after you restart your computer) you will see a small square near your system tray (the lower right row of icons on the task bar at the bottom of your screen in Windows). Clicking on this little square (or pressing the Ctrl and Shift keys at the same time) will give you the option of toggling back and forth between any keyboards you have installed.

NOTA BENE: If you install a non-English keyboard the letters on your actual keyboard (the hardware) will not necessarily indicate what letter is actually typed.


To type an accent mark on a Spanish Keyboard, hit the apostrophe followed by the vowel over which you want the mark. The "" is the colon key; "" is a capital colon. Question marks ("" and "?") are the "+" and "_" symbols respectively. The upside down exclamation is the "=" key.

Good luck!


There is a very cool utility at where you can easily type in Spanish and then cut and paste into your document.
This is not a solution for people who need to type regularly in Spanish (there is not other formatting, no spell checker, etc., but it is a quick solution for people who need a word or two now and then. Other languages besides Spanish can be found at



Microsoft Word (PC)

WordPerfect (PC)

Macintosh (any program)
 Accented characters are "hard wired" into the Macintosh Operating System. The following instructions will always work on a Mac in any program or application since they always remain part of the system software. 
Symbols joined by a + need to be held down at the same time;
Symbols separated by a coma need to be hit in sequence, one after the other.

Option + E ,  A

 Option + E ,  E

 Option + E ,  I

 Option + E ,  O

 Option + E ,  U

 Option + E ,  Shift + E

 Option + N ,  N

 Option + N ,  Shift + N

 Option + Shift + ?

 Option + 1

 Option + U , U


Microsoft Word for Windows


The default keystrokes for accented characters are as follows:
Symbols joined by a + need to be held down at the same time;
Symbols separated by a coma need to be hit in sequence, one after the other.

Ctrl + ' , A 

 Ctrl + ' , E

 Ctrl + ' , I

 Ctrl + ' , O

 Ctrl + ' , U

 Ctrl + ' , Shift + E

 Ctrl + Shift + ~, N

 Ctrl + Shift + ~, Shift + N

 Alt + Ctrl + Shift + ?

 Alt + Ctrl + Shift + !

 Ctrl + Shift + : , U

        If you want to change the defaults and use other keystrokes to access accent marks, follow these instructions. You will only need to do this once and the computer you're working on will remember the keystrokes you've set up. However, if you move to a different machine, you'll probably have to go through this set-up process again. 

1.  Go to the "Insert" menu and choose "Symbol" 
2.  Get "Normal text" and then highlight the character you want 
3.  Click on "Shortcut Key" 
4.  Type in the keystrokes you want for that character 

(such as "alt + e" for "")

5.  Repeat this process for each special character you need


Word Perfect 8.0 for Windows

There are no default settings for international characters in WordPerfect. You must set up your computer to recognize the keystrokes you want to use (such as "alt + e" for ""). You only need to do this once on any given computer. The software will remember what you've taught it. 

  1. When in WordPerfect, click on "Tools" and select "Settings."
  2. Now double-click on "Customize."
  3. Select the "Keyboards" tab.
  4. Click on the keyboard you want to edit (I suggest "WPWIN 8 keyboard") and click "Edit."
  5. On the left is a list of all of the possible "shortcut" keystrokes you can assign to accented characters. Notice that most of them are already assigned to some function. Don't use these. Select the keystroke you want to use (see suggestions below) and then click on the "Keystrokes" tab.
  6. Press Ctrl + W to display a list of all the possible characters.
  7. Under "Set" select "Multinational."
  8. Click on the character you want to assign to the keystroke you already selected in step 5.
  9. Click on "Insert and Close"
  10. Click on "Assign Keystrokes ot Key"
  11. Repeat this process from step 5 trough 10 until you've assigned all of the Spanish characters.
  12. Click OK.

NOTA BENE: the upside down exclamation and interrogative are under the "Typographic Symbols" Set, see step 7. 



For the easiest typing, I suggest setting up the following keystrokes (this assuming that you do NOT with to install the Spanish Keyboard).
Symbols joined by a + need to be held down at the same time;

Alt + A

 Alt + E

 Alt + I

 Alt + O

 Alt + U

 Alt + Shift + E

 Alt + N

 Alt + Shift + N

 Alt + Shift + ?

 Alt + Shift + !

 Alt + Shift + U