To demonstrate how to insert special characters and symbols in Word, we’re going to explore how to write a simple question in a foreign language. We’ve chosen ‘¿Dónde se puede comer algo?’, which roughly translates from Spanish to ask ‘Where can I get some food?’. This leads with a punto de interogación inicial, or an upside-down question mark as most of us would call it. The easiest way to type this particular symbol into any recent version of Word is to hold down Shift, Ctrl and Alt, then press the question mark key.
The keyboard method is a quick and easy way to insert all manner of symbols and accents. But how do you find out the key combinations in the first place? The answer is to display the Symbol dialogue box. To do this in Word 2003, open the Insert menu and click Symbol. In Word 2007, click the Symbols dropdown menu on the Symbols section of the Insert tab on the Ribbon bar, then choose More Symbols. If need be, use the Font and Subset dropdown menus to choose a typeface and character set, then use the slider on the right to find a particular symbol.
Here, for instance, we’ve used the Symbol dialogue box to locate the accented ‘ó’ needed in the first word of our Spanish query. Now look at the bottom of the dialogue box to the right of the Shortcut Key button: the keyboard shortcut for this character is listed. In this instance, you’d need to hold down Ctrl and type an apostrophe, then release Ctrl and type the letter o. To choose a different key combination, or indeed set a shortcut for more unusual symbols (not all special characters have a set keyboard shortcut), first select the symbol, then click the Shortcut Key button.
In the Customize Keyboard dialogue box, click in the ‘Press new shortcut key’ field, then perform the desired keyboard shortcut. Keep an eye on the ‘Currently assigned to’ label, though: if a chosen key combination is already in use, the conflict will be shown here. Either try a different key combination or overwrite the existing shortcut by clicking the Apply button. The new shortcut will be listed under Current keys. To remove a shortcut from this list, highlight it by clicking it, then click the Remove button.
Regular writers of foreign-language documents may find it useful to tweak Word’s proofing tools. There are many ways to do this, including buying special language packs from Microsoft, but we’ll explore a couple of everyday techniques. For example, to disable in-document spellchecking, Word 2003 users should open the Tools menu, point to Language, then click Set Language. In Word 2007, open the Language dropdown menu in the Language category of the Review tab and choose Set Proofing Language. In the Language dialogue box, tick the ‘Do not check spelling or grammar’ box and click OK.
Alternatively, set the proofing tools to work in other languages – this can be restricted to selected text passages or applied to all documents. First select some text, then repeat Step 5 to once more display the Language dialogue box. Remove the tick from the ‘Do not check spelling or grammar’ box, then find and select the appropriate language in the list. To apply this language to just the selected text, click OK, or to apply it to all documents, click Set As Default. Click Yes to confirm. Finally, note the English-language version of Word includes proofing tools for English, Spanish and French. If another language is selected, you’ll need to purchase and install one of the aforementioned language packs.