I've seen several times on this website users complaining about someone else typing accents wrong because they are typing with an English keyboard. (typical case: e' instead of è, consistently across the whole post).

Examples: Qual è il significato di "acchiappino" a Roma? (a recent one), sono io / sei tu: analisi logica, Significato di "pettinarsi i capelli a cercine", Un "estuario bituminoso" è una foce contaminata? (where the post was silently edited to correct the accents).

I feel that these discussions add very little to the website, and are only a way to annoy and drive away possible contributors. Posts written using these "fake accents" are perfectly intelligible, and it's clear to most readers why they are written in that way.

Are we OK with these comments? Or should we have a "community consensus" that (for instance) you are welcome to edit away English-keyboard accents but you shouldn't comment to complain about them?

Let's get this out of the way before someone else suggests it: on most operating systems there are international keyboard layouts that allow one to type accented letters on an English keyboard with little modifications, typically using dead keys. True; I am using one myself, but I think that we should be tolerating with people who don't want to go through the extra hassle of getting used to a new keyboard layout, for many reasons.

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    In fact, I tend to correct those posts without complaining about them. – Charo Jun 17 '18 at 14:55
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    I think we should just edit the posts (maybe leaving a courtesy comment on the edited post). I suspect these comments come from a (misguided) sense of not wanting to edit someone else's post, but for correcting this kind of typos whoever noticed it should just edit away. – Denis Nardin Jun 17 '18 at 16:05
  • I favor the idea of fixing them (also for obvious spelling mistakes) without comments other than “I fixed the accents/typos for you”. – egreg Jun 18 '18 at 8:28
  • @egerg and Federico: What about writing your last comments as an answer so that people can vote? – Charo Jun 18 '18 at 11:49
  • To encourage participation of the community on this issue, I've labelled this post as "fatured", so it's visible on the main site. I've just learnt I could do that: this is the reason why it's the first post I labelled with this tag. – Charo Jun 18 '18 at 12:16
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    An example where this has been discussed in the comments some years ago. – Charo Jul 17 '18 at 12:34

My proposal is that the community consensus should be:

  • You shouldn't comment to point out that the accents are typed incorrectly or complain.
  • it's OK to fix them in an edit, without any comment.

Rationale: it's likely that OP knows how accents work in standard Italian and doesn't use them by deliberate choice, so those comments would be just noise and could annoy and drive away a possible contributor. The posts are perfectly readable anyway.

  • I agree with you, but I would encourage users to fix them in an edit for the reasons explained in this post. – Charo Jun 18 '18 at 12:15
  • This doesn't mean that I'm encouraging the substitution of accents with apostrophes: I prefer people try to write the correct Italian accents if they can. But I understand it can be complicated for some of them and that shouldn't drive away possible contributions. – Charo Jun 18 '18 at 12:27
  • @Charo That's just my personal opinion, but I would not explicitly encourage users to fix them. I am a bit divided on the subject, because there are some arguments in favor of "apostrophes everywhere are better than accents", exactly like some people have strong opinions regarding í,ú vs. ì, ù (and I would not encourage "fixing" í,ú when they appear in a post). – Federico Poloni Jun 18 '18 at 12:46
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    «There are some arguments in favor of "apostrophes everywhere are better than accents"»: I'm curious about that. It has really done in a serious way? – Charo Jun 18 '18 at 13:44
  • @Charo Not that I know, but it's possible. It was just based on some idle thoughts. I don't want to hijack this thread to speak about that, though (and I'm not even fully convinced myself). – Federico Poloni Jun 18 '18 at 14:28
  • Before up- or downvoting (or nothing), on what do you base the assumption that in such cases “it's likely that OP knows how accents work in standard Italian and doesn't use them by deliberate choice”? It might well be that they are not familiar with the use of Italian diacritics and attracting their attention to them (in a gentle, not-scaring-away way) is in itself useful, this being precisely a site about Italian. – DaG Jun 18 '18 at 17:33
  • As for "apostrophes everywhere are better than accents": it's a peculiar point of view, for a website where people come to to learn about Italian. Why not “indicative mood everywhere is better than subjunctive”? :) – DaG Jun 18 '18 at 17:43
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    @DaG Replacing accents with apostrophes is a typically Italian thing. In my experience, when a foreigner can't write à, they write a, not a'. Wikipedia confirms. – Federico Poloni Jun 18 '18 at 17:43
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    @FedericoPoloni: No matter who writes this and whether this is due to ignorance or to a precise, deliberate choice, it goes against current Italian norms, which are what this site is about. – DaG Jun 18 '18 at 17:46
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    And in my comment the people who “are not familiar with the use of Italian diacritics” might well be Italian, of course. So I have to disagree with this proposal. – DaG Jun 18 '18 at 17:48
  • I think we can safely assume that an Italian has been taught the difference between an accent and an apostrophe in school. If they write "un pò", that's a mistake and I can understand pointing it out; when they replace 10 accents out of 10 in their post with apostrophes, that looks like it can only be a deliberate choice to me (probably caused by laziness and an English keyboard). – Federico Poloni Jun 18 '18 at 17:48
  • Anyway, I think that we are arguing over a subtlety: the difference between it's OK to fix them and you are encouraged to fix them. That's not the main point. – Federico Poloni Jun 18 '18 at 17:51
  • There is also the question of doing all of this tacitly vs pointing out (in a polite, amiable way) the misuse. – DaG Jun 18 '18 at 18:03
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    I've been learning Italian as an autodidact for years. When I was beginning, I thought that, for some reason I didn't know, Italian accents on capital letters should be written as apostrophes. For instance, that I should write E' and not È to begin a sentence with the third person singular of present indicative of verb "essere". It took me some time to learn that this was considered as something incorrect. This is why I consider so important that accents are written in a correct way in all posts and I've edited lots of them to correct that. – Charo Jun 18 '18 at 22:09
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    Would it be possible to insert a "cheat sheet" in the question page with all the accented vowels and their alt codes, so that users with an international keyboard layouts can copypaste or know how to type them? – LinuxBlanket Jun 28 '18 at 14:08

I would encourage users to write correct Italian accents whenever they can. But, at the same time, I understand it can be complicated for some of them: since I believe this shouldn't drive away possible contributions, I think we should avoid comments that can be interpreted as a complaint about this fact.

On the other hand, since this site is about Italian and people come here to learn about this language, I think it's very important that all posts are written in correct orthography; so I would encourage users to fix apostrophes used instead of accents in an edit. Personally, I prefer to do such edits without leaving a comment (in fact, I have done it lots of times). But I see no problem if other users prefer to leave a comment of the kind of the one being proposed in @DaG answer.


Since this is a website about Italian language, and the use of accents in Italian is fully a part of Italian orthography, pointing out a misuse of accents is just a special case of pointing out mistakes in the use of Italian language. So, should we mention when one misspells something, or uses an ungrammatical construction?

Among the position expressed above, I'd say that the best solution might be to edit the question/answer correcting those errors and briefly, kindly mentioning this in the comments, perhaps something like “I took the liberty of fixing some imperfections in your use of accents / spelling / grammar” (but I am not the king of diplomacy: someone will undoubtedly find a better phrasing).

  • The main difference between this and pointing out a grammatical error is that in this case it is likely that the author of the post knows that it is wrong and is just lazy. The main benefit of pointing out a mistake is correcting the author so that they can learn something. Pointing out a sloppy usage that they already know about is just a disturbance, in my view. – Federico Poloni Jun 18 '18 at 17:58
  • So we are supposed, for any given error, to make an educated guess of its genesis in the writer's mind? It's becoming difficult... – DaG Jun 18 '18 at 18:01
  • No --- what you are using here is called a slippery slope fallacy. You are supposed to treat this specific error as a special case. – Federico Poloni Jun 18 '18 at 18:09
  • So, I am glad that at least we agree that in general it wouldn't be advisable. – DaG Jun 18 '18 at 18:15
  • Nella porta di un bagno di un bar in una città italiana ho visto un cartello che conteneva l'espressione "e' consentito", scritta così, con l'apostrofo. Poi questo era tradotto in inglese come "and' allowed" (mantenendo l'apostrofo!), in francese come "et admis" e in spagnolo come "y made" (che vai a sapere cosa possa significare). – Charo Aug 17 '18 at 10:03

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