The Spanish language makes use of several punctuation marks that don't appear in English. For example, an exclamation is marked by an upside down exclamation mark (¡) at the beginning of the sentence as well as an exclamation mark (!) at the end. In the same way, a question is marked by both an upside down question mark (¿) at the beginning and a question mark (?) at the end. Microsoft refers to these special punctuation marks as international characters. If you occasionally need to use Spanish in Microsoft word, you can type in these characters without having to change your keyboard to Spanish in Windows.
Typing an Upside Down Exclamation Point
Microsoft Word and other Office applications allow you to enter Spanish language special characters using keyboard shortcuts. The shortcut for an upside down exclamation point is to hold down the "Alt" + "Ctrl" + "Shift" keys at the same time as the exclamation point key. Similarly, the shortcut for an upside down question mark is "Alt" + "Ctrl" + "Shift" + the question mark key.
Typing a Spanish N
Besides special punctuation marks, the Spanish language uses some other special characters that aren't found in English. The tilde (
) is used with the letter 'n' in Spanish to indicate a difference in pronunciation, giving the Spanish alphabet one additional letter compared to English. Although the tilde symbol is available on most English keyboard layouts, typing in the letter n with a tilde over it requires the use of a keyboard shortcut, which in this case is "Ctrl" + "Shift" + "" followed by either the "N" key for ñ or "Shift" + "N" for Ñ.
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Using the Symbols Menu
One problem with keyboard shortcuts is that they rely on the computer user's muscle memory. If you don't remember the shortcut for an international character, you can use the "Symbols" menu on the "Insert" tab in Word. The menu displays a collection of frequently used symbols and characters, including Spanish language punctuation marks and characters like ñ that aren't included on an English keyboard. Picking a symbol from the menu will place it at the cursor position in the current Word document.
The "Symbols" menu also provides access to the "Symbol" dialog, where a larger collection of symbols is displayed. You can cycle through a menu of system fonts to see the collections of symbols provided with different fonts. Pick a symbol from the collection and then click the "Insert" button in the dialog to add it to the current document. When you pick a symbol, the dialog displays the keyboard shortcut sequence.
If you find a shortcut is too hard to remember, the "Symbol" dialog provides a way to define a new shortcut key sequence that you prefer.
Entering a Character Code
The "Symbol" dialog also displays a number known as the character code when you select a symbol. You can use this code to place the symbol in a Word document by typing in the character code and then immediately typing in the keyboard shortcut "Alt" + "X." For example, use the character code '00a1' followed by "Alt" + "X" to enter an upside down exclamation point.
Installing a Spanish Keyboard in Word
For those who frequently need to use Spanish in Word and other Office applications, Microsoft recommends installing the keyboard layout for Spanish. You can do this by searching for keyboards in the Windows Control Panel and accessing the "Region and Language" dialog. Add a Spanish keyboard and close the dialog.
Once you have added a Spanish keyboard layout in Windows, a Language Bar will be displayed to allow you to quickly switch between English and Spanish keyboards. You can also use the "Alt" + "Shift" keyboard shortcut to switch between different keyboard layouts. When using the Spanish keyboard layout with an English keyboard, you'll need to memorize which keys map to international characters.