Accent Marks (Diacritics) - Non-English Words, Phrases, and Accent Marks

AMA Manual of Style - Stacy L. Christiansen, Cheryl Iverson 2020

Accent Marks (Diacritics)
Non-English Words, Phrases, and Accent Marks

An accent mark (diacritic) added to a letter indicates a phonetic value different from that of the unmarked letter. Many words once spelled with accent marks (eg, cooperate, preeminent, debride, Meniere disease) now are written and printed without them. Consult the most recent edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary to resolve questions about whether a word should retain its accent.

In general, English words in common usage should be spelled without diacritical marks. Words from other languages not in common English usage should retain their accent marks. Accent marks should be clearly indicated on manuscript copy. Accent marks should always be retained in proper names.

Marc-André Bergeron

Ana Marušić

Mötley Crüe

Accent marks should also be retained in quotations.

When faced with writer’s block, I am reminded of Valéry: En vérité, une feuille blanche/Nous déclare par le vide/Qu’il n’est rien de si beau/Que ce qui n’existe pas (In truth, a blank sheet/Declares by the void/That there is nothing as beautiful/As that which does not exist).

(Note: It is advisable to provide a translation when necessary for a reader to understand the context, as in the example above.)

Accent marks are often used to show pronunciation and syllabic emphasis.

centime (sän-tēm)

squamous (skwā-məs)

Table 12.2-1 gives examples of usage of accent marks.

Table 12.2-1. Examples of Accent Mark Usage

Accent mark

Examples of usage










can be either underdot (mahāprāṇa) or overdot (marlė)






Anders Ångstrom

slash (sometimes called virgule)

Adam Bøving




Henoch-Schönlein purpura

wedge or haček

Louis Žabkar

It is recommended that special characters that will be used online be rendered in Unicode because all newer browsers support it. Use of Unicode nearly guarantees that special characters and diacritical marks will be displayed correctly online.

Principal Author: Brenda Gregoline, ELS


Thanks to Barbara Gastel, MD, MPH, Texas A&M University, College Station; Trevor Lane, MA, DPhil, Edanz Group, Fukuoka, Japan; Peter J. Olson, ELS, Sheridan Journal Services, Waterbury, Vermont; and Shannon Sparenga, MS, JAMA Network, for their review and suggestions on this chapter.