Typesetting Accent Marks for Print and eBooks

If you’re working on a book that contains accent and diacritical marks, it’s very important to choose the right font format for design and typesetting.

Most of the older Mac fonts have limited character sets for accent marks and diacriticals. A lot of the common characters are in the font sets, including acute accents over a’s and e’s, etc., but I constantly run into marks that have to be “hand-set” by adding the accent mark after the letter it should go over, and then using kerning to move the accent marks into place.

Although far from ideal, this method has been working for me for a long time. However, now that I am converting print books into eBooks, the accent marks won’t display correctly if I use 2 keystrokes to create the accented letter.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to this problem that will also make typesetting the print edition faster than before.

The Times New Roman font has a very complete character set and is the font most frequently used by the authors and publishers that I work with. I’m not suggesting that you typeset all books using Times New Roman, but if you run into a character that won’t display properly in the font you are using, try converting the character to Times New Roman to see what it’s supposed to look like.

I find that it’s best to use .otf (OpenType) fonts when designing print and eBooks. OpenType fonts have much more complete character sets than the older-type fonts. You can also use the OpenType Fractions with .otf fonts (Fractions doesn’t work with the older fonts).

When preparing a book in InDesign or Quark for both print and eBook editions, it’s more important than ever to keep the formatting as clean and streamlined as possible. I always consider the eBook edition when I’m working on the print files, but I am careful not to introduce eBook formatting that might interfere with the proper output of the print edition.

2 thoughts on “Typesetting Accent Marks for Print and eBooks”

  1. Andrea: I have a Hawaiian book, written in English but with numerous Hawaiian words. Thus, i need okina and kahako (macrons). No one seems to know how to do this properly in ebook form. Do you have experience with Hawaiian words? And, do you design ebooks?

    You can see my book in print form on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Voices-Wisdom-Hawaiian-Elders-Speak/dp/0944134017/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370461056&sr=1-1&keywords=voices+of+wisdom+hawaiian+elders+speak

    I now want to put it into ebook form and stop printing.

    aloha . . . mj harden

    1. I don’t have any particular experience with typesetting Hawaiian words. However, if you can get the text to look correct using the font Times New Roman, it should translate well to the ebook. If you have to form the characters with accent marks through the combination of two or more characters (such as an o with a separate line over it), they will not look okay in the ebook.

      I do design ebooks. A lot of the work I do is converting the books I typeset for print into ebooks.

      Hope that helps!!
      Andrea

Thank you! Andrea