Using macrons

Microsoft Word doesn’t make adding macrons to Māori words in your documents a straightforward exercise, or at least it doesn’t feel like one. There’s no key you can just type them in with, and increasingly we’re becoming aware of words that we should have been including macrons on.

First of all – what’s a macron?

A macron’s that line above a vowel in many words in te reo Māori. Like that one just above the a in Māori. They indicate a longer sound to that vowel, which helps with pronunciation; and really, it’s respectful to spell words correctly, especially in one of our three official languages in New Zealand. (Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on the Māori language, and can generally pick up only a word or two here and there. I am, however, pretty clued up on writing in English, and creating documents for businesses and government departments.)

ASCII codes for macrons

The way I’ve found easiest to insert letters with macrons into my writing is using ASCII codes – DON’T PANIC! That just means holding down the ALT key on your keyboard while typing in a combination of numbers.

Say I wanted to type the word Maori with a macron over the a. Here’s how I’d do it:

  1. Type the first letter.
  2. Put the cursor in place for the a.
  3. Hold down the ALT key (beside the space bar on your keyboard).
  4. Type in the ASCII code for the letter you want (in this case, ā).
    Note: if you have a side number keypad on your keyboard, make sure the NUM LOCK key is on, and use this side keypad.
  5. Release the ALT.
    Result: your ā displays.
    Note: If your letter doesn’t display, check that:
    — you used the correct number code
    — the NUM LOCK key is on.
  6. Finish typing the rest of the word.

So what are these miraculous ASCII codes? Here they are:

  • Ā — Alt 0256
  • ā — Alt 0257
  • Ē — Alt 0274
  • ē — Alt 0275
  • Ī — Alt 0298
  • ī — Alt 0299
  • Ō — Alt 0332
  • ō — Alt 0333
  • Ū — Alt 0362
  • ū — Alt 0363

Unicode for macrons

If for any reason the ASCII codes are fighting back and not working for you (I sometimes have this problem with the capital I for some reason), you can try the Unicode macrons.

Type the code into your page, and the press Alt and X at the same time.

  • Ā — 0100 Alt X
  • ā — 0101 Alt X
  • Ē — 0112 Alt X
  • ē — 0113 Alt X
  • Ī — 012a Alt X
  • ī — 012b Alt X
  • Ō — 014c Alt X
  • ō — 014d Alt X
  • Ū — 016a Alt X
  • ū — 016b Alt X

It’s kind of a hassle remembering these codes…

I can hear that’s what you’re thinking – and I tend to agree. These codes make life a bit easier, but having to put them in all the time seems like a pain. Keep an eye out for my next post, which might help you out with this!


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