The right accent

Does your online publication have this problem?Paragraph with errant special charactersSorry to pick on Cypress College, but the example was convenient. There are a number of community college papers experiencing this problem. Sad thing is, the staff is trying to do something good.

Editor & Publisher online this week posted a story about whether papers should use accent marks or other special characters. most commonly with Spanish words. In some cases, leaving the accent off changes the meaning of the word. For example,

The name Pena, without the tilde over the “n,” means shame. The Spanish word for year without that squiggle becomes anus.

Many papers blame The Associated Press for going accentless. The wire service‘s 2006 stylebook says accents shouldn‘t be used “because they cause garble in many newspaper computers.”

It’s nice to see college papers picking up the trend of including the special characters as needed, especially in multi-cultural California. The problem is that modern word processors have spoiled us with the most common ones. Know the right keystroke combination and it is easy to type in the correct character and include it in your print edition.

But web sites are not WYSIWYG word processors. And those codes get misinterpreted by most browsers. You end up with examples like above. I’ve worked with some content management systems that make the conversion for you, but most, including College Publisher’s don’t. Some browsers will convert the characters on the fly, but most do not. Instead, you have to insert special HTML code to get the desired effect.

A quick Google search on “HTML” and “special characters” will yield a number of sites where you can find charts that will help you. I kind of like this one, but this one actually has a list of characters you click on and it generates code you can copy and paste into stories.


One response to “The right accent

  1. Michael J. Arvizu

    I’ve found that the use of special characters are far and few for our publication. Peña is the only one we usually worry about.

    I think it’s wise to orient yourself with the code that will be required to get these special characters to work.

    Michael J. Arvizu
    El Vaquero Online Editor

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