One cannot avoid accented characters on a bilingual site (English and French), as this site is. Some of the accented characters may be on your keyboard, but it is possible that they aren’t. Similarly, you may want to use special characters other than French accented characters, such as Spanish characters, or even emojis, dingbats, mathematical operators, bullets, etc. All is possible. Read on.
If you have the the characters you need on your keyboard …
… just type them in. They should be OK. If, after you leave the page and then come back to it the characters are not OK, you made need to use HTML entities, described below.
Or you can copy them from a Word document …
… since Word has great support for special characters. Here’s how:
- In Word, click on
- click on in the top right (in the ribbon). You will see:
The top part contains characters that you used recently. If the character you need is there, click on it.
- otherwise, click on . You will see:
Scroll down if necessary, until you see the character you need. Click on it, then to insert it into the Word document.
Word can sometimes correct your French with the appropriate accent. It may do the same for French orthographic ligatures. e.g., You may type the word coeur, and find that it gets changed to cœur.
But watch out! When copying text from Word, you are also copying the font, colour, and much more into the document. This is a huge no-no. You can (must) avoid this by copying into the view of the page.
Non-breaking spaces …
… are especially important in French. The “«” (which is always followed by a space character), the “»” (preceded by a space) and the “:” (preceded by a space) are the best but not only examples of characters that can find themselves on a line separated from the text they belong with. Values are separated from their units (e.g. 17 cm). Thousands separators are sometimes spaces (e.g 123 456). In both languages, parts of a date should be kept together (e.g. dec 25, 2020). Other uses are more subjective, such as a person’s honorific and name (e.g. Ms Smith). The list goes on. But the solution is simple; instead of a normal space character you need to insert a non-breaking space character, using the entity “ ”. Entities and how to use them are described next.
or use HTML entities …
… which are HTML directives for characters. They can only be entered successfully in the view of the page. Entities always start with an “&” and end with “;”. For example, the entity for “é” is “é”. Entities are case sensitive, and are written in lower case. However, the entity for an upper case special character is written with the first character in upper case (e.g. “É” is “É”). Note that in mode, the characters <, >, “, ‘, and & must be entered as entities, so that they are not confused with HTML elements. Below is a list of common entities. More can be found online.