Daily Archives: July 1, 2018

Don’t die a critic of diacritics and special characters

Do you always get your accents and special characters right in non-English words? Or are you sometimes unclear on which is which, and maybe not sure what difference it makes?

Well, lucky you. I spent quite a bit of time recently putting together charts for a presentation I took part in at the 2018 Editors Canada conference. They list the most common ones, some of the languages you’re likely to see them in, and the kinds of differences they can make – cases where the presence or lack of a little mark can turn something innocent into something dirty (or vice versa, which is sometimes even worse).

Here they are. It’s a PDF, but it’s small: accents_characters_harbeck.pdf



Canadian flag by the Trans-Canada Highway at Pigeon Mountain, Alberta

Is there really a Canada, or is it all a cantrip? Lines on maps can trip you up; best take a trip across so you can see.

Not that cantrip as a word is related to Canada or to trip. It refers to hocus-pocus, a witch’s spell, a charm, a trick, a mischievous device. But such captious catnip can come from maps and capitals. And since we are today celebrating 151 years of a country called Canada, let us just look and see whether it be not a trick of optics. Continue reading