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Accents on capital letters


Loiseau

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I wonder if someone could give me the rule about using accents on uppercase letters, or point me to a thread on the subject.

I am sure that at school we learnt that the only time a capital letter takes an accent is E acute.  I can see the logic of that, as it's the only case where the accent makes a huge difference to the word's pronunciation.

However, in a capitalised word with two accents (one an E acute and one not), it looks a bit odd to have one and not the other.

Angela

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From experience, it is pretty rare to see accents on capitalised words. Going back to school days it was a definite no-no and if you look at MS Word you'll find that the default for French (France) is to leave them off -- see below.

Enforce accented uppercase characters

If you're working with French text, you can specify whether the spelling checker flags non-accented uppercase characters as spelling errors.

 Note   For some variants of French, such as French Canadian, this option is automatically turned on. In those languages, Microsoft Word automatically accents words that begin with a capitalized character as appropriate, and the spelling checker flags non-accented uppercase characters as appropriate.

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[quote user="Albert the InfoGipsy"]From experience, it is pretty rare to see accents on capitalised words.[/quote]It's certainly inconsistent but I wouldn't call it rare.

I've just pulled a dozen French books off the shelf (I mean, published in France) and looked at everything I can find that's all uppercase: author's and publisher's names, chapter headings, the title of the book itself and of individual stories or articles or whatever within the book, etc, etc.  It looks as though the accents are always shown, with only one exception that I could find: it's a list of restaurants published by Logis de France, in which the name of each town in the list is shown in uppercase letters with no accents - although everything else, e.g. department names and section headings, has them.

On the other hand, I have a letter from a bank which is mostly uppercase, and in all of the uppercase words there isn't an accent anywhere: neither in the bank's name and address, nor in phrases like RESUME D'ACTIVITE.  And one from my Mutuelle which contains words like PRELEVEMENT and ECHEANCE, all without accents.

Finally, the name of our local village contains an É.  There are four roads into the village, and the signs that mark the boundary (all uppercase) are divided: two with the accent and two without.  Take your pick.

I would guess that the books are the best guide to "correct" usage, but I wouldn't bet a lot of money on it. 

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I think I would prefer to use the Académie française as arbiter of style rather than Microsoft. Although I don't have time to search the AF for specific guidance, I have found several sources that quote Académie française as saying that the fact that a letter is capitalised or not does not make it correct to omit an accent. Apparently accented upper case characters fell out of use when typewriters were introduced, as they had to be added by hand.

I did hear that the cedilla is going out of use, just like accented upper case letters.

Apparently, and strangely, Canadian French is far more particular about accents than 'real' French.

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[quote user="Will"]I think I would prefer to use the Académie française as arbiter of style rather than Microsoft.[/quote]

Hear, hear. 

And indeed their word on the matter is perfectly clear :

On veille donc, en bonne typographie, à utiliser systématiquement les capitales accentuées, y compris la préposition À,  comme le font bien sûr tous les dictionnaires, à commencer par le Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, ou les grammaires, comme Le Bon Usage de Grevisse, mais aussi l’Imprimerie nationale, la Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, etc.  Quant aux textes manuscrits ou dactylographiés, il est évident que leurs auteurs, dans un souci de clarté et de correction, auraient tout intérêt à suivre également cette règle.

A quick scan of a quality newspaper (I borrowed one from a neighbour for cleaning windows) suggests that they too follow this admirably simple rule.

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I stand corrected. However, I would say that as a general rule capitalising whole sentences is bad practice in any language. I remember my lecturers at art school criticising layouts using ALL CAPS. There are enough ways to emphasise text (bold, italic, font changes...) without using caps, which are both ugly and harder to read than normal mixed case.
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[quote user="Gengulphus"]And indeed their word on the matter is perfectly clear :[/quote]

I should have said, perhaps, that the Académie Française page  -  which includes a variety of entertaining topics such as Au jour d’aujourd’hui and Féminisation -  can be accessed here:

http://www.academie-francaise.fr/langue/questions.html

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