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Getting started with Spanish 1
Getting started with Spanish 1

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7 Typing special characters

Spanish has a variety of accented and special characters and it is important that you use them in writing. The quizzes in this course will mark your answer as incorrect if you leave out an accent which should be there! If you are typing a document, there are several ways of producing these characters depending on the device and the keyboard.

Mobile devices

On most mobile devices with a keyboard on its touchscreen, such as Android or Apple smartphones or tablets, the easiest way to produce an accented character is to press and hold the letter, wait for a popup showing all the possible accents, then slide your finger onto the one you want and let go.


On a PC, desktop or laptop, with a physical keyboard, there are three ways to produce these characters:

  • Press Ctrl and an accent symbol, then the letter; the accent symbol is ‘ (apostrophe) : (colon) or ~ (tilde). This works in Microsoft Office (including Microsoft Word) on recent computers, but it may not work on older computers or with other applications. You also cannot produce ¿ or ¡ this way.
  • Hold down the Alt key and type a number code on the numeric keypad; you may need to have the Num Lock on for this to work. Note: you cannot use the number keys above the letters; if your keyboard does not have a numeric keypad (and some laptops do not), then this option is not available to you. The number codes to use are in this ‘Accented character number codes [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ document.
  • In Microsoft Word, on the ‘Insert’ tab, click on ‘Symbols’ then ‘Symbol’ then ‘More symbols’; from the table, choose the character you want and click ‘Insert’.


On a Mac, desktop or laptop, with a physical keyboard:

  • for accented vowels, press Option and e, then the vowel key
  • for ñ, press Option and n, then n
  • for ü, press Option and u, then u
  • for ¿, press Option and Shift and ?
  • for ¡, press Option and 1.

Whichever option you use, make sure you can type all of these characters: á é í ó ú ü ñ ¿ ¡

If you have difficulty, try the Spanish dict or Macworld websites, or search the web for “Accented or special characters on [manufacturer and model of your device OR the name of your software]”.

Activity 10

Try typing the following characters, words and phrases in the box below.

  • á

  • é

  • ñ

  • ¿

  • Adiós

  • Hasta mañana

  • inglés

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


As you’ve probably realised, if the accented letter you want is already somewhere on your screen, then a further way of writing it is to copy and paste it where you want it to go! But you can’t always count on having an example of the accented letter to hand, so you need to know how to produce them for yourself. It may feel cumbersome to start with, but it will soon become second nature.