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Can Spanish accent marks be dropped in a context where they cannot be displayed? I'm developing a computer program that generates labels for a display that only supports the English alphabet. Are there any other considerations or processing I could do to make the labels more readable? E.g. for German I replace umlaut characters like 'ü' with 'ue'.


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Remember that Spanish also makes use of { ñ , Ñ and ü } –  belisarius Sep 4 '12 at 21:50
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "can." Spanish written without accent marks is virtually 100% comprehensible to a literate fluent or native speaker, because, at least in my case, I don't use the accent marks as a guide to tell me what pronunciation to use. In English, a mispeled word here and there doesn't damage comprehension, likewise in Spanish, a literate person is likely to read "como estas" and be able to grasp right away whether the person means "like these" or "how are you?"

In that sense, yes, you most definitely can.

As always, I can't speak to whether it's officially acceptable per the RAE because I have very little familiarity with that ruleset.

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Thanks, in this case I literally have NO WAY to include any characters outside the lowercase English language alphabet plus 0-9 and the dash sign (-). I don't know anything about Spanish and I'm just trying to see if there's anything I can do to make the label more readable. It sounds like the answer is no. –  Paul Sep 3 '12 at 18:51
Stephane, thanks for the correction -- I don't know how that one slipped by me. –  Frank Sep 4 '12 at 14:13
With regard to Ñ, there are two common practices: to render it as "NY" sort of like the English "canyon", or to use the combination "NH" which is what Portuguese does. –  Walter Mitty Sep 8 '12 at 14:30
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