Type Symbols and Diacritical Characters – Mac Kung Fu, 2nd Edition

Tip 114Type Symbols and Diacritical Characters

Here’s how to insert commonly used symbols and characters into your text documents, as shown in Figure 18, Inserting various symbols via keyboard combinations. Note that this tip assumes you are using a U.S. English keyboard.

Figure 18. Inserting various symbols via keyboard combinations

Apple Symbol

Hit Shift+Option+K to insert an Apple logo () into your text. Bear in mind that the symbol probably won’t appear in documents or emails opened on other operating systems, such as Windows or Linux. Instead, these systems will probably display a square, indicating a missing character. Some Linux systems might display a symbol representing an apple but not the Apple logo.


Hit Option+G to insert a copyright symbol (©) into your text. Typing (c) will achieve the same result in most applications (you’ll need to hit Space after typing for the symbol to appear).


The dollar sign is typed by hitting Shift+4, as marked on the key. Here’s how to type other common currency symbols:

  • Cent (¢): Option+4

  • Pound sterling (£): Option+3

  • Japanese Yen (¥): Option+Y

  • Euro (): Shift+Option+2.

Dashes and Ellipses

To type an en dash, hit Option+- (hyphen). To insert the longer em dash, hit Shift+Option+- (hyphen).

To type an ellipsis character, that is, three periods in a row that indicate an omission, hit Option+;.

Math Symbols

Many mathematical symbols are easily accessible via marked keys (to insert a less-than symbol, for example, hit Shift+,). However, to insert other mathematical symbols, you’ll need to hit the following key combos:

  • Approximately (): Option+X

  • Degree (°): Shift+Option+8

  • Division (÷): Option+/

  • Infinity (): Option+5

  • Less than or equal to () and greater than or equal to (): Option+, and Option+., respectively.

  • Not equals (): Option+=

  • Pi (π): Option+P.

  • Plus/minus (±): Shift+Option+=

  • Square root (): Option+V

  • Sum (): Option+W


Option+2 will produce the trademark symbol (). Typing tm followed by a space will do the same thing in most apps. Option+R inserts the registered trademark symbol (®). Typing (r) will also insert the symbol within most apps.

Type Diacritical Characters

Here are a variety of ways to type the occasional non-English language character or symbol into text using the majority of word processors and editors. Note that this tip assumes a U.S. English keyboard is being used.

Using the Characters Palette

In most text-editing applications, you can click EditSpecial Characters (or hit Option+Command+T) to bring up the Characters palette, from which you can choose non-English letters or symbols by selecting the Latin entry from the list on the left (in Microsoft Word, click InsertSymbol, or InsertSymbolSymbol Browser in Word 20). Double-click the letter to insert it into the text.

Pressing and Holding

Another technique that works with some built-in Mac apps, like TextEdit and Mail, is to simply hold down the standard English version of the key for a few seconds. Doing this will cause a pop-out menu of accented variations to appear, and you can use the Left/Right cursor keys to move the selection highlight between them, hitting Return or the Down cursor key to insert the one you need. You can also simply type the number that appears beneath the character in the pop-out window to insert it immediately.

To insert é, for example, just press and hold E, and then select é from the pop-out menu. For uppercase variations, just hold Shift plus the key in question.

Typing Manually

However, you can also type the more commonly encountered foreign-language characters on standard English Mac keyboards as follows (the following should work in virtually all Mac apps):

  • Acute accent: Hit Option+E and then type the letter. For example, for café, type c, a, f, Option+E, e. Hold Shift when typing the letter to add accents to uppercase letters.

  • Cedilla: Option+C. For example, for façade, type f, a, Option+C, a, d, e. For an uppercase version, hold Shift.

  • Common ligatures: For œ, hit Option+Q. For æ, type Option+ (that is, the apostrophe key). In both cases, hold Shift for uppercase versions. For example, to type œvere, type Option+Q, v, e, r, e.

  • Circumflex: Option+I (I as in India), followed by the letter. For example, for the word rôle, type r, Option+I, o, l, e. Hold Shift when typing the letter for uppercase versions.

  • Eszett: Option+S. For example, to type weiße, type w, e, i, Option+S, e.

  • Grave: Hit Option+ (backtick; the key above Tab on U.S. English keyboards, and left of the Z key on other English keyboards); then type the letter. For example, for città, you’d type c, i, t, t, Option+, a. Hold Shift when typing the letter for uppercase versions.

  • Inverted punctuation: For an inverted question mark, hit Option+? (that is, Option+Shift+?). For an inverted exclamation mark, hit Option+1—there’s no need to hold Shift.

  • Ringed A: For å, hit Option+A. Hold Shift for the uppercase version.

  • Stroked O: Option+O. For example, for the name Jørgensen, type J, Option+O, r, g, e, n, s, e, n. Hold Shift for the uppercase version.

  • Tilde: Option+N, followed by the letter. For example, to type España, type E, s, p, a, Option+N, n, a. Hold Shift when typing the letter for uppercase versions.

  • Umlaut: Option+U, followed by the letter. For example, to type über, type Option+U, u, b, e, r. Hold Shift when typing the letter for the uppercase version.