View Full Version : Special Characters (Letters, Not People)

03-03-2012, 08:29 PM
My novel takes place in France and therefore makes use of the occasional French spelling, where the letter E is accented. For example: Opéra. How do I deal with this in my query letter and manuscript?

When I first posted my query letter, I used "Opéra" in the text and was told that it looked like a typo. On my end it looked fine, but obviously something went wrong somewhere. I've heard this can happen in emails, as well as with e-readers. I don't want to take any chances with my query or manuscript, especially with e-submissions, but neither do I want to spell the words improperly. "Opéra" is a matter of taste--it could properly be spelled either way, but I use it as a means of distinguishing between the Opéra (the building) and the opera (the show they're performing). Other words do require the accented E. The main character's surname, for instance, has an accented E in it. There's also words like fiancé and fiancée, the magazine La Mode Illustrée, the play Roméo et Juliette, and so forth. There are a couple of Swedish words that have unusual characters in them, as well.

Should I replace these with regular letters for any e-queries and e-submissions, but leave them in the hard-copy query letters and manuscripts? Or do I need to replace them universally, and then just tell the agent who wants to represent me that certain words need the accented letters, so that he/she can make the changes?

How do I handle this?

03-03-2012, 08:38 PM
I'd say leave the accents in the query and partials, but to make absolutely sure they are coming through correctly, ask a couple friends with different e-mail readers to help check. You can email them the query/partials and they can confirm if the accents appear as they should, or if they show up wonky. If they do show up wonky, then yeah, replace them with "regular" letters.

But leave the manuscript itself as is. Once you have an agent, they will either submit via hardcopy, or they will email the ms. as an attachment.

(And I feel your pain. Just about everything I write has diacriticals.)

Debbie V
03-05-2012, 06:53 PM
As eqb says, The issue here is probably that the special characters aren't read properly by the mailers. This is the same as what happens with Word's smart quotes. You may have to replace them by hand in your e-mail program or do without.

03-05-2012, 07:50 PM
I'd forgotten about the smart quotes. Yikes! I need to replace the auto em-dashes, too.

I'll definitely clean up all the "weird" characters for any email queries or partials, and then figure out what to do for the manuscript itself. Right now I'm going through and replacing all my italics with underlining. I'll probably have to do that again, replacing the underlining with underscores, if I get any email requests for a partial. Ugh.

Brigid Barry
03-05-2012, 07:58 PM
I am not familiar with French. I know in German that a character like ä can also be spelled ae and be correct. Similar to the ß can just be ss.

If there isn't - or you don't want to use alternative spelling, just send test e-mails.