How to Insert Special Characters in a Windows Email

Include foreign language characters in your email messages

What to Know

  • For a quick and easy solution, search for special characters online, then copy and paste them into an email.
  • Add Keyboard: Go to Time & Language settings > Language > English (US) > Options. Under Keyboards, choose + > US–International.
  • Character Map: Go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Character Map. Highlight character, copy/paste into the email.

There are simple ways to type non-typical symbols like umlauts, carets, and accent marks, as well as characters from other language alphabets. You do not need a special keyboard to do this. Here's how you can access those characters using any version of Windows.

Copy From the Web

Perhaps the easiest way to insert non-typical characters into an email is by copying and pasting the text from another source.

  • Search for the phrase, perhaps in translation, on the web.
  • Copy and paste phrases or individual characters into the email.

Use the US-International Keyboard

The United States-International Keyboard layout is indispensable for anyone who needs to type or quote passages in other languages. Follow these steps to enable the layout:

Windows 10

  1. Select the Start button.

    The Start button in Windows 10
  2. Go to Settings.

    Settings under the Windows 10 Start menu
  3. Choose Time & Language.

    The Time & Language heading in Windows 10 settings
  4. Click Language.

    The Language heading in Windows 10's "Time & Language" settings
  5. Under Preferred languages, select English (United States) to expand the item.

    The selected language under "Preferred languages"
  6. Choose Options.

    The Options button for a language in Windows 10 language settings
  7. Under Keyboards, choose the + sign (Add a keyboard).

    The "Add a keyboard" button in Windows 10 Language options
  8. From the list, choose United States – International.

    The "United States – International" keyboard option in Windows 10
  9. In the Taskbar, click ENG US (or your current keyboard) to pull up all of the available options.

    The keyboard menu in Windows 10
  10. From the list, choose United States – International.

    The US - International keyboard in the menu in Windows 10

Windows 8

  1. Go to Settings > Change PC settings > Time and language > Region and language.

  2. Choose the language you want to add to a keyboard, then choose Options.

  3. From the list, choose United states – International.

Insert Characters With Character Map Utility

For occasional characters not available with the US-International keyboard, try the character map. It's a visual tool that allows you to select and copy many available characters.

  1. In the Windows 10 search bar, type Character Map and select it from the results.

    In Windows 7, the map is available at Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Character Map.

    If Character Map is not visible, you will have to install it: Go to Start > Settings > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > Windows Setup > System Tools > Details. Click the Character Map check box > OK.

    The Character Map app in Windows 10 search results
  2. Select the desired character and choose Select.

    An item in the Windows 10 Character Map and the Select button
  3. Click Copy.

    You can select and copy multiple characters at once; click the Copy button once your full selection has appeared in the window.

    The Copy button in the Windows 10 Character Map
  4. Paste the text into your email in the desired location.

For a more comprehensive character map, try BabelMap.

How to Use the US-International Keyboard Layout

Using the US-International keyboard layout, you can input often-used characters easily. To display é, for instance, type Alt+E, or Alt+N for ñ, or Alt+Q for ä, or Alt+5 for the € sign.

The US-International keyboard layout also has dead keys. When you press an accent or tilde key, nothing happens until you press another key. If the latter character accepts an accent mark, the accented version is input automatically.

For just the accent key (or quotation mark), use Space for the second character. Some common combinations (where the first line represents the accent key, the second line the character typed following the accent key, and the third line what appears on screen):

  • ' + C = Ç
  • ' + e y u i o a = é ý ú í ó á
  • ` + e u i o a = è ù ì ò à
  • ^ + e u i o a = ê û î ô â
  • ~ + o n = õ ñ
  • " + e u i o a = ë ü ï ö ä

For other languages—including Cyrillic, Arabic, and Greek—you can install additional keyboard layouts. For Chinese and other Asian languages, make sure Install files for East Asian languages is checked on the Languages tab.

A solid grasp of the new keyboard layout will help, as what you type will not match what you see on your physical keyboard. Microsoft Visual Keyboard (or On-Screen Keyboard in Windows 7 and later) is an on-screen keyboard for Office applications that may help in the learning process.

Fonts and Encodings

When copying a character from Character Map or BabelMap, make sure the font you use to compose the email message matches the font in the character tool. When mixing languages, it is usually safest to send the message as "Unicode."

How to Use Alt Codes

Another available option that requires neither copying nor pasting is typing alt codes. You enter characters this way by typing a series of numbers while holding the Alt key. For example, for a lowercase n with a tilde over it (ñ), the key command is Alt-0241.

The main drawback to this method is having to either memorize the codes or keep a list handy. If you have a few characters you use all the time, however, you can just learn those keystrokes.

Was this page helpful?