When writing in most languages derived from the Latin alphabet, such as French, Spanish and Swedish, it is necessary to use accents on certain letters, as this changes their pronunciation and meaning. This can be seen even in English, as the verb "to resume" has a different meaning than the French-derived noun "résumé." There are several different methods for using accents in Microsoft Word.
Note: The following assumes the reader to be using Microsoft Word 2007.
Change the language to whichever will be the dominant one in your document. On the Quick Access Toolbar at the top of the Microsoft Word window, click on the "Review" tab. Select "Set Language" and choose the appropriate language. Make sure the box marked "Do not check spelling or grammar" is not selected.
Begin writing your document. When you get to a word that uses an accent, such as the French word "frère," first type it normally, as if the accent did not exist. Unless the word exists both with and without an accent, Word will automatically detect the need for the accent, and may either change the word without any prompting, or underline the word in red to indicate that the spelling is incorrect. If the latter occurs, right-click on the word and select the appropriate spelling.
Insert the accent yourself if Word does not automatically detect the need for it. For example, if you are writing in English and want to use the word "résumé," you will have to manually insert the accents since the word "resume" is also an acceptable word in English. This can be done by clicking on the "Insert" tab on the Quick Access Toolbar. Next, click "Symbol." If the accented letter you need does not appear immediately, click "More Symbols." Scroll through the symbols until you find the one you need. Click on it and click "insert," then click "close." The symbol you chose should appear in your document.
If you know there is a particular accented letter you will be using frequently, highlight just that letter and then press Ctrl + C to copy it. When you wish to use it, simply press Ctrl + V to paste it.
There is an alternative method for manually inserting accents: Deliberately misspelling the word. Doing so will cause a red line to appear under the word. When you right-click on the word to correct it, Word should automatically add an accented option. For example, the French word “sûr” is not automatically accented if one types “sur.” So, one can type “suur” – which is not a word in French—and then right-click on the word and select “sûr” as the correction. Another alternative method is to use the keyboard shortcuts provided by Microsoft Word. For example, press Ctrl + apostrophe, then a letter (such as “e”), to get a specific accent: é. These shortcuts can be accessed by going to Word Help (click on the small question mark in the upper right-hand corner of the Word window), searching for “accent shortcuts,” and clicking on “Keyboard shortcuts for international characters.”