If you need to type text involving words with accents, emojis, or any other special characters, you’ve come to the right place.

The Mac keyboard has a simple and uncluttered layout that would lead the most experienced typists to think they cannot type in any other language or advanced letters other than English. However, like any other keyboard, the Mac keyboard allows you to type in any language while using all available characters and symbols for your writing.

Read on as we look at the various ways of typing letters and words with accents on Mac by answering the following questions:

  • What are accents and special characters on a keyboard?
  • How can I type different accents, symbols, and special characters on my Mac keyboard?
  • How can I type emojis or substitute text on Mac?

What Are Accents and Special Characters On A Mac Keyboard?

Accents, or word accent marks, are diacritics or special marks and symbols that you can use to indicate certain aspects of your writing, like the meaning of a word, its pronunciation, and the stress or tone of particular letters in a word. 

Accent marks are usually placed above, below, between, or beside certain letters in a word, most commonly with vowels, to distinguish the difference in using the particular letter.

Depending on the context, accent marks are also considered special characters, alongside currency symbols, mathematical symbols, and other special writing symbols (including emojis). 

Accent marks are common in most languages worldwide and are used in everyday writing.

Examples of accent marks include:

  • The acute accent (é)
  • The grave accent (è)
  • Cedilla (ç)
  • Circumflex (ê)
  • Diaeresis or Umlaut (ë)
  • Breve or Caron (č)
  • Tilde or Ene (ñ)
  • Macron (ē)
  • Ring accent (ė)

Special characters include currency symbols, mathematical symbols, and other characters like:

  • Ligatured AE or ash (Æ)
  • Oslash (Ø,ø)
  • Œthel (Œ,œ)
  • Degree symbol (°) 
  • Yen (¥)
  • The dollar sign ($)
  • Eszett (ß)
  • Dagger (†)
  • Copyright (©)
  • Trademark (™)
  • Registered trademark (®), to mention but a few.

The Mac keyboard has all these accent marks, special characters, symbols, and even emojis that you can quickly type into your text. This keyboard also allows you to type in languages other than English by changing its settings to your preferred language.

You can copy and paste special characters as regular text (as you would from a PDF or online text dictionary) or even type up special accents directly, as we’re about to show you below.

How Can I Type Different Accents, Symbols, And Special Characters On A Mac Keyboard?

There are two different ways you can type in accents, special characters, and symbols using the Mac keyboard. 

You can press & hold or use the modifier key, here’s how.

The Press & Hold Method To Type Accents On Mac

This method displays the accent menu for a specific key you want to use.

This method only applies to letters with multiple accents or diacritical mark variations. If, for example, you wish to type the letter "e" with an acute accent mark, here’s what you would need to do:

  • On your text, position your cursor where you wish to type in the acute accented "e."
  • Press the letter "e" on your keyboard and hold it down.
  • An accent menu with numbered options for different accent marks on the letter "e" appears on your screen.
press and hold method on mac to type accents
  • On the accent menu, select option 2, or use the left and right arrows to choose the 2nd option on the accent menu on your screen.
  • The option inputs é on your text.

The Modifier Key Method to Type Accents On Mac

This modifier key option allows you to press the Shift and Option keys individually or to modify your regular keys to diacritics, special characters, or symbol options on your Mac keyboard. 

This option lets you add diacritical marks on letters without disrupting the flow and speed of your typing. 

You can select hold down the Option key alone to add accent marks to your text. You can combine the Shift and Options keys to type in accent variations in uppercase letters.

When you press the Shift key alone, it lets you type uppercase letters and the symbols appearing on the number keys on your Mac keyboard.

How to type accents using modifier keys on Mac keyboard

When you press the Option key combined with the "e" key and a specific letter, it adds an acute accent mark to the letter.

For example, to acute accent the "e" letter, press Option+e+e.

  • Hold down the Option/Alt key on your Mac keyboard.
  • Press the letter "e" key on your keyboard.
  • An acute accent mark appears on your screen.
  • Release the option and letter "e" keys and type in the letter "e" again.
  • The acute accented "é" now appears on your screen.

To type â (acute accented a,) press Option+e+a.

You can also use the Option key combinations to add other diacritic marks on the applicable letters while typing on your Mac keyboard.

These combinations are as follows:

  • To type a grave accent on a, e, o, i, o, u, press the Option key + ` + the specific letter. (E.g> Option + `+ a= à)
  • To type a tilde/ene accent on a, n and o, press Option+n+letter. (E.g. Option+n a= ã)
  • To type a diaeresis or umlaut accent on a,e,i,o,u, press Option + u + the specific letter. (E.g. Option + u + a = ä)
  • To type a circumflex accent on either a, e, i, o,or u, press Option + i + the specific letter. (E.g. Option + i + a = â)

How can I type accents symbols and special characters using modifier keys on my Mac keyboard?

You can use the Option or Shift modifier keys to type in different symbols or special characters on your Mac keyboard. Different symbols or special character variations are available under the individual modifier keys or a combination of the two.

To know which symbols or special characters are represented by the Shift, Option, or Shift+Option keys on your Mac keyboard, you can:

  • Go to the Mac menu on top of your screen.
  • On the menu pulldown, Click on System Preferences.
  • Select the Keyboard option on the menu list that appears on your screen.
mac keyboard settings for special characters
  • Click on the Input Sources to see the keyboard option.
mac keyboard input sources keyboard settins
  • Now press on either Shift, Option, or Option+Shift modifier keys to see the available symbols, accents, and special character variations available under different keys.

Alternatively, you can add the keyboard viewer on your top menu for easy access to the symbols, accents, and special characters available at the press of the Option, Shift, or Option+Shift keys. This is how the keyboard viewer appears on your top menu.

mac emoji and symbols settings

You can hover your mouse over the different keys to see the options available in the various modifications and select your preferred character to add it to your text.

mac keyboard layout suggestions for special characters

Here are examples of some symbols and special characters that you can type using the following modifier key method:

  • The Yen currency symbol: Option+Y = ¥
  • Trademark symbol: Option+2 = ™
  • Copyright symbol: Option+g = ©
  • Registered trademark symbol: Option+r = ®

A combination of the Option + Shift modifier keys will give you the following special characters among many others:

  • The Ash or Ligatured AE symbol: Option + Shift+’ = Æ
  • The Œthel: Option + Shift + Q = Œ
  • The Oslash: Option + Shift + O = Ø
  • The Double Dagger: Option+ Shift +7 = ‡

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How Can I Type Emojis Or Substitute Text on Mac?

Emojis have become a favorite of many, with emoji symbols appearing in most modern text types. 

You can type emojis in your text using your Mac keyboard using the Character Viewer option on your screen in two easy ways:

  • On the top menu of your screen, open the Edit menu.
  • Select the Emojis and Symbols menu on the pulldown menu that appears.
  • A panel with different emoji and symbols options appears on the left side of your screen.
how to type emojis on mac
  • You can choose your favorite emoji or picture by scrolling down and around the various emoji categories available on the panel. You can also search your favorite emoji on the provided search field. You also have the option of selecting your preferred emoji on the emoji panel using the right and left arrows on your keyboard, or drag and drop the emoji where you want to type it on your text.

You can expand the view of the emoji panel to reveal the Character Viewer option on your screen. 

The emoji panel has an extended viewer button on the right side which you can use to expand the panel's view to access more symbols and special characters options. 

You can also press Control + Command + Space keys on your keyboard to add the Character viewer to your screen.

mac character viewer for emojis and more

The character viewer allows you to choose from different emojis, special symbols, and other odd or unusual characters that may not be available on the regular keyboard allocations. It also lets you select specific symbols associated with particular languages like Latin. 

You can also choose other special characters like arrows, pictographs, math symbols, letter-like symbols, or special punctuation symbols to add to your text from the Character viewer.

Another advantage of using the Character viewer option is that it shows you the emojis and symbols you frequently use in your writing. You can also customize your emojis and symbols list and save your favorite characters for easy access when typing on your Mac keyboard.

You can also opt to use the text substitution option to add your regularly used emojis or symbols to your text on Mac. This option allows you to associate your preferred word formats with specific emojis, then when you type in the set word in your text, the emoji or symbol appears.

How to set up text replacement on a Mac

Here's how to set the text substitution option:

  • Go to the top menu and click on System Preferences.
  • Click on the Keyboard option.
  • Select the Text option.
  • A panel with Replace and With options appears on your screen.
mac text substitution settings
  • Click on the + option on the lower left side of the panel.
  • On the Replace column, type your preferred word format.( For example, apo)
  • On the With column, input the apple emoji.
  • This option automatically adds the apple emoji to your text when you type the word apo.


In conclusion, the Mac keyboard gives you endless options to help you format your text with accent marks, symbols, special characters, and even emojis. 

Although the Mac keyboard might look plain at first glance, every key on it bears an extra character option or more that will not only make your writing easy but also fun, exciting, and a new way to express your writing.

Looking for more info on getting the most out of the way you manage your PDF files on Mac?

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