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May 2022

The Scrivener

Accent on Writing: Diacritics

By Elizabeth Scott Moïse

SC Lawyer

My mother was a French teacher, and after I made a “C” in my French class in the seventh grade, thus thoroughly embarrassing the family (well, only Momma was embarrassed, but she was embarrassed enough for the whole family), she took over my foreign language education, which included weekly home tests on spelling, vocabulary, and verb conjugations. Also, my last name—Moïse—has an accent mark. So between spending hours every week on all things French and continually answering questions from friends about the meaning of the two little dots over the “i” in my name, diacritics took on an unusually large meaning in my life. 

Accent marks, or the lack of them, have also been the subject of legal arguments. For example, defendants have challenged the lack or inclusion of accent marks in names and words when arguing that they were not accorded due process, were not properly warned, were not properly served with process, or that they did not violate a competitor’s trademark.

Reprinted with permission.