The English language is simple.  OK, it's really not that simple, what with all its irregular verbs and myriad words borrowed from other languages.  But at least in English, we don't have to deal with fancy forms of letters.  The good old Microsoft Word keyboard just isn't set up for those either.

I first encountered this issue in my writing life in Grand Jeté  (yes, Jeté. not Jete).  The word is French and that little reverse accent is called an acute.  Other writers have encountered similar problems with Spanish (ñ, Ñ, ¡, ¿) and German (ö).  And then, there's a basic writers' symbol, the copyright ©.

Fortunately, there's a simple solution for all this, at least on the Windows operating system, the ALT codes.  These are a series of four-digit codes which, when entered in combination with the ALT key, produce the symbols above and several dozen others.

The process is deceptively simple.  Just hold down the ALT key, while typing the code number on the numeric keypad.  (One glitch - this must be done on the keypad.  It doesn't work with the numbers across the top of the regular keyboard layout.  But there is a way around that, too.)

There are several websites that list the ALT codes.  My personal favorite comes from Penn State University and is available at  The site provides a depiction of a symbol along with the ALT code for that symbol.  The information is arranged by like groupings, so language symbols are grouped together, and financial symbols such as ¢, the British pound (£), and the Euro (€) are together.

And if you don't have a numeric keypad, such as on a laptop, no problem.  Just copy the symbol using the CTRL-C command and paste it into your document with the CTRL-V command.

Add authenticity, as well as correct spelling, to your manuscript with the ALT codes whenever you are dealing with foreign words.


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