Updates: 2017-04-12: Added input methods for MacOS. 2017-01-08: Fixed a few links. 2015-09-25: Fixed a few links, other small changes. 2015-04-10: Checked, updated and fixed all links in article.
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1. Writing résumé
In my article "CV & resume", you might have noticed that I used three different ways of writing the word resume (meaning a short document with important information about yourself that you send when applying for a job):
The letters are the same; the difference is the accents. Accents are those small marks above the letter e.
(Here the word accents means one type of diacritic, marks added to letters to affect the sound of the letter/word. Accents can also mean the way people speak.)
All three ways of writing the word are acceptable to native English speakers.
Why three different ways of writing one word?
Well, English writing doesn't usually have accents or other diacritics. But when English receives a word from another language, then diacritics might be used.
These words from foreign languages are called loanwords, and résumé is an example of a loanword. It was borrowed from French (where it means summary), and French writing does often use accents.
And the proper French writing is résumé, with acute accents above both e's.
For native English speakers, this results in a few problems:
So sometimes people write the word with no accents at all (especially if they don't know the special methods to type an accent on their computer keyboard, or they feel it would take too long to use those methods). Result:
Sometimes people do know how to type accents and write it exactly the original French way:
Sometimes they write it with an accent just on the final e:
Many words in English are written with a silent e (i.e. no sound) at the end (e.g. have, native, write), so people put an accent on the final e of resumé to show that it is not silent, that there is a sound after the m, and to distinguish it from another word with the same letters but a different pronunciation.
And that leads to the next issue: how to say the word.
2. Pronouncing résumé
résumé : noun
The word résumé has three syllables.
If you're not sure how many syllables a word has, you can try this site:
You can hear the word résumé pronounced on these dictionary websites (by clicking on the little speaker icons near the top).
resume : verb
But there's another word in English, resume, with the same letters (but no accents) but a different meaning and pronunciation.
It is a verb (not a noun) and it means "begin again".
It is pronounced as 2 syllables (the final e is silent).
You can hear the word pronounced on these dictionary websites (by clicking on the little speaker icons near the top).
I've noticed that a lot of Chinese online dictionaries (like Baidu) have problems confusing these two words, and only give the pronuciation for the verb.
In fact many of those Chinese online dictionaries can't handle accents, and give errors or no results if you try searching for résumé or resumé.
And I've noticed many of my students saying the verb (" re - ZUM") when they mean the noun (" RE - zu - mei").
So be careful about pronunciation: the noun is 3 syllables, with emphasis on the first syllable.
I've noticed a similar problem with the brand name Nestlé. Many Chinese online dictionaries (and some British ones too) do not distinguish between the pronunciation of the French-language brand name Nestlé and the English verb "nestle".
3. Typing résumé
There are several ways to write résumé on a computer, which can be difficult because many computer keyboards don't have keys for acute accents.
Option A: Don't use accents.
This is the easiest way and is acceptable. Just write resume (singular) and resumes (plural).
Or if you're writing to someone British (and some other countries), just write CV (singular) or CVs (plural) instead. (See my article "CV & resume")
Option B: Use a tool in your writing program
Software you use to write, like a word processor or text editor, might also have a tool to help you write an accent. It is often called something like "Insert Character" or "Insert" > "Symbol".
Option C: Use a separate software tool
This depends on the software and operating system you're using.
Some operating systems have a special program for inserting letters, accents and symbols. In Windows it's called Character Map.
Option D: Copy & paste!
I'll type the word here for you to copy & paste, in singular and plural, with two accents and one, and with different use of upper and lower case letters.
Option E: Use your keyboard to type acute accents.
This depends on the type of keyboard you have, which usually depends on the country you're in.
On my current keyboard (Latin American International) I have a special key for writing acute accents.
I press the key for the acute accent, then I press the key for the letter.
There can be other ways too, depending on your operating system and software.
Use special keyboard combinations to type letters with acute accents.
This depends on the type of keyboard you have and the operating system of your computer.
On my Windows computer with an external keyboard I can type:
On Apple Macs, you can try a couple of methods.
More here on typing accents:
Well, that's all on the word résumé. I hope you found it useful. If you have any comments, ideas or corrections, please feel free to use the comment box below.
G.A.L.E.S.L. / joe3
Some tips and links on learning English.