How to insert symbols or special characters in a word processor

Updated: 04/12/2021 by Computer Hope

While using a word processor, it may be necessary to insert special characters into your documents. These characters may include ellipsis, accented letters, foreign language characters, Copyright symbol, math symbols, trade symbols, and world currency symbols. Due to limited space for keys and because many of these symbols are uncommon, you won't find most of them on a standard keyboard. However, most programs and services allow the ability to enter signs and symbols by following the steps below.

Inserting symbols in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word

Use the Microsoft Word keyboard shortcut Ctrl+'+<letter> to add a letter with an accent (grave) mark above it. For example, if you wanted an accented é, you would use Ctrl+'+e (hold down Ctrl, single quote, and the letter e) as your keyboard shortcut. To reverse the accent mark, use the opposite accent mark on the tilde key.

  1. Open Microsoft Word.
  2. Open a new document or the document you want to add a special character.
  3. Click the Insert top menu option or the Insert tab.
  4. Select the Symbol option in the Insert menu or click the Symbol option on the Insert tab. If the desired symbol isn't seen, click More Symbols.
  5. Select the letter in the symbol list with the accent mark you want to use and click the Insert button. You might have to use the scroll bar to see more options.

For example, to insert symbols like a degree symbol, square root, and upside-down question mark, scroll down on the character list, click the symbol, then click Insert.


Make sure that the font is selected on "Normal text" unless you plan to use an accent from a different font.

Inserting symbols in Google Docs

  1. Open Google Docs.
  2. Click Insert
  3. Click Special Characters and select or draw the special character you want to insert.

Inserting symbols in OpenOffice Writer

  1. Open OpenOffice Writer
  2. Click the Insert top menu option.
  3. Select the Special Characters option.
  4. Select the special character you want to edit. Realize that not all fonts support all characters. Therefore, it may be necessary to switch the font to display certain special characters.