Should I use diacritical marks like é, ç or ö?

Summary

English is one of the few European languages to make little use of diacritical marks like é, ç or ö. Nevertheless, they are occasionally useful. This article explains when and why you might wish to use them.

The acute accent: é, í, ó, ú

When an acute accent is placed above the letter e it usually indicates that the letter should be pronounced ay. In English, we sometimes see this with words like café.

An acute accent can also easily distinguish between resume (meaning to continue) and résumé (a statement of qualifications).

The cedilla: ç

When a cedilla is placed below the letter c it indicates that the letter should be pronounced as an s. In English, we occasionally see façade written with a cedilla.

The dieresis or umlaut: ë, ï, ö, ü

A dieresis or umlaut tells us to pronounce two adjacent vowels as separate syllables. For example, Zoë is pronounced zoh-ee, not zoh.