Rorate Caeli

L'Académie française contre le modernisme

Use of accents on capital letters

It can only be deplored that the use of accents on capital letters is inconstant. A certain trend tending to the ommission of accents is observed in manuscript texts. Some often suppress, in typography, all accents on capital letters under the pretext of modernism, but in fact to reduce the costs of composition.

It is appropriate to observe, however, that, in French, the accent has full orthographic value [sic]. Its absence slows down reading, provokes hesitation in pronunciation, and can even lead to error. The same applies to the trema and to the cédille.

In good typography, care should be taken for the systematic use of accented capital letters, including the preposition À, as all good dictionaries clearly do, beginning with the Dictionary of the French Academy, or the grammars, as Le Bon Usage, by Grevisse, and also the National Printing Press [l’Imprimerie nationale], the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, etc. As for manuscript or typed texts, it is evident that their authors, out of concern for clarity and correction, should have all interest in equally following this rule.
So, then: Ecône or Écône?


Anonymous said...

The latter, of course.

Anonymous said...


New Catholic said...

Oui, bien sûr. It is a pity that almost all official websites choose to ignore this.

Anonymous said...

It's a wonderful pronouncement you have quoted. I can assure you that, studying at the Sorbonne in the 1980s, we were taught that it was unnecessary. I will teach my French students to keep it at all events.

Anonymous said...

For years I've been carrying on the use of accents on capitals, against all trends!

It's a great news.

And it's very Roman Catholic ;-)

French journalist

Anonymous said...

If only English had an Academy. I'd better not get started on this. I'd start with prison terms for those who insist on leaving the stops out of abbreviations.


Anonymous said...

Well, we have Fowler and Oxford.

Nicholas said...

Why the "[sic]"?

New Catholic said...

Because those words are in bold in the original text - it is not an error; in this case, we use it solely to indicate that the emphasis is not ours, but the Academy's.


Jeremiah Methuselah said...

The accent on the letter "e" is optional, in my own case, it is desirable.


Carl said...

Please notice that "tréma", at the end, also has an accent aigu... capitalized or not :-/

New Catholic said...

Not in English, usually. While the cedilla, when written as cédille, usually does (even in English). And this is a text in English (except for the title).

Dev Thakur said...

I wonder if the Spanish Academy has said anything about this issue in that language?

I was taught that accents on capitals can only be ommitted for convenience (i.e. on a typewriter) but otherwise should always be used.

LeonG said...

Does this include the post-conciliar genre too?

Anonymous said...


but also Riddes for post and rail.


LeonG said...

We have to state here that we also find modernism in church usage appalling which has slowed down the faith and can lead to error. Particular note must be taken concerning the neglect of the accent upon Latin together with the loss of accent on obedience to the Magesterium alongside the contemporary misplacement of the sedilia.

Jack O'Malley said...

Toujours les scandales!

Yet this is nothing compared to the use of accents on Greek capitals. An example of which I recently saw: ΜΟΛῺΝ ΛΑΒΈ. (But the accents appeared over the letters, not as the software here places them before). And the verb incorrectly accented to boot.

First went orthopraxis, then orthodoxy, now orthography! We are in the end times.

Anonymous said...

"If only English had an Academy. I'd better not get started on this. I'd start with prison terms for those who insist on leaving the stops out of abbreviations.


PKTP (couldn't resist),

Probably one of the best things about the English language is that we get along perfectly well (and our language keeps on growing . . .) without any snooty busybodies deciding usage questions this way. Ours is a glorious bastard language, misbegotten out of Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Norman French, Latin, Greek, and every other language under the sun. Any purist "academie" would have a fit with such an unruly and eminently flexible tongue. Let the French keep their bureaucracy, thank you, while English reigns (appropriately/ironically enough) as the current "lingua franca."


P.S. Here are some relevant links:

New Catholic said...

Dev Thakur, the rule is quite clear in Spanish, since it is not a strong suggestion, but an actual order, which was made even more evident in the 1999 "Ortografía de la lengua española", of the Royal Spanish Academy, updated in 2010: "El empleo de la mayúscula no exime de poner tilde cuando así lo exijan las reglas de acentuación". There it is..., limpia, fija y da esplendor... :)

pclaudel said...

New Catholic: Since, as you rightly say, "this is a text in English (except for the title)," why not go the whole hog and call the diacritic that you insist on calling a trema what every English speaker on either side of the Atlantic--including grammarians, philologists, and even Mr. Perkins and other full-stopping Canadians--calls it: a diaeresis (alternatively, dieresis).

Please note further that trema does not appear in the latest edition of the OED, even as a foreign term, nor can it be found in any standard dictionary of American English.

To begin to understand the workings of the Church, notably on the administrative level, one needs to be familiar with a raft of technical terms, some of them bordering on the outré. I fail to see what purpose is served by adding one pointless technicality to the already long list of necessary ones.

New Catholic said...

Because I like it. Actually, a good many American speakers would most probably identify it by the name of its main German use, the Umlaut. Curiously enough, since this text is about the typographic use of these marks, trema seems more appropriate since the diaeresis and the Umlaut are two diverse phenomena in different languages unified by the use of the same diacritic, the trema.

I completely missed the reference to "the workings of the Church"...

Jack said...

I don't know French, much less French typographical uses, but FWIW, in Greek, accents and breathings are omitted when a word is written with all capitals. In normal texts, they are placed immediately before a capitalized initial, if it uses an accent. All words beginning with vowels use a breathing.

Just mentioning it.

\\ I'd start with prison terms for those who insist on leaving the stops out of abbreviations.\\

What some people think are abbreviations, such as chemical symbols and call letters of radio and television stations, are not. Metric abbreviations, by SI convention, do not use periods.

Jack O'Malley said...

New Catholic: a good many American speakers would most probably identify it by the name of its main German use, the Umlaut

But a trema is qualitatively distinct from an umlaut, no?

Monoglot Americans are not to be held as linguistic arbiters, are they? And by monoglots, I mean native hispanohablantes as well.

Let 'em learn Latin. The vulgar tongues will follow.

Timothy Humphries said...

I have no idea where the author of this article has got his information. It is dead wrong.

Traditional French usage has been NOT to put accents on capitals. It suffices to read books from before the '70s to verify this.

What happened was that the Parti québécois came to power in the Province of Quebec, Canada. It established the Office de la langue française to promote and preserve the purity of French in Quebec.

One of its decisions was to put accents even on capitals -- contrary to France-French tradition, and thereby showing that the Office was quite the independent entity.

But, lo and behold, the idea has gradually taken hold in France, and more and more publishing houses there are adopting the practice.

So, far from vanishing in modern usage, placing accents on caps is a new-fangled practice that is gaining favour.

New Catholic said...

"I have no idea where the author of this article has got his information. It is dead wrong."

Your problem is with l'Académie Française (click on link...), the "author of this article".


O'Malley: the diaeresis is qualitatively distinct from the Umlaut. It does not seem inappropriate to have a third name for the symbolic indication itself, whatever the function it may have, as diaeresis (as in noël) or as Umlaut (as in Müller). One may well call it "pig-nose" or "upper-dots", for all I'm concerned - I have no problem with a generic use of diaeresis or Umlaut, either.

We are getting so far from the object of this post, though - which is simply to ask those who publish items, including online items, using the name Écône, particularly those in organizations, to use the specific accent on the first letter of the word, even if it is capitalized...