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How do native speakers write in Spanish when typing, with regards to punctuation, accent marks and ñ? Do we leave out accents, opening question marks, etc.? What problems might this pose to the reader? Is it permissible or advisable for a foreign language student of Spanish to do away with these marks, or for a native communicating with foreign language students?

This question was motivated by one about handwriting, which seems to be more conservative. As per the suggestion by aparente001, I'm making it here and moving part of the other question's answer here at the same time.

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As I said elsewhere, in my experience, people write in longhand using the proper accent marks and punctuation, but tend to leave that out when typing except when the occasion calls for it, as in, for example, when typing a CV or a formal letter.

Leaving out the accent marks seldom produces confusion, but it may pose a problem in some cases. ("yes") vs. si ("if") is one notorious case. The diaeresis over ü is definitely not a problem. I'll be hard-pressed to think of a word that could conceivably be misread due to its missing a diaeresis over u.

Most if not all people will leave out the opening question and exclamation marks when typing. Most will also leave out the full stop after a paragraph, and many will substitute a comma for a stop in mid-paragraph. Many drop the stops and commas altogether, which sometimes makes for confusing texts.

Further simplifications are common as well; some are only found in typed texts, while others have been common in fast handwriting (such as in note-taking) for ages (e.g. substituting q for que).

Spanish-language natives recognize ñ as an individual letter distinct from n; the tilde ~ over ñ is not counted among the accent marks, and is never left out.

One would think that predictive dictionaries and autocorrect software on most devices should be enough to avoid the disappearance of accent marks, at least (e.g. if you type lapiz aleman on your cellphone, the autocorrect should change it immediately to lápiz alemán), but it seems that's not happening. There are many Spanish words (especially verbs) that are correct both with and without a given accent mark, which surely explains why the autocorrect doesn't do its job, since it has no real contextual awareness (if you write tiro, it has no way of knowing whether you really meant tiro "I throw" or tiró "he threw").

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  • I'm curious, how do you explain how we ended up so rigorous with our accents and punctuation here at Spanish Language SE? (Not that I'm complaining....) – aparente001 Apr 2 '18 at 2:17
  • Another thing to add could be that because the keyboards don't include Spanish quotation marks, only ditto marks, it's rare to see people use « », instead they use " " (much like in English, where " " is also used instead of “ ” , but is less different in appearance) – user0721090601 Apr 2 '18 at 3:44
  • The ü may pose a problem if someone uses an uncommon word that contains it and omits the diaeresis. How would you read gueguecho? – Charlie Apr 2 '18 at 9:33
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    By the way, I wonder if @guifa knows that güifa means "insignificant thing" in Chile? I bet he doesn't want his name to be typed with diaeresis. :-D – Charlie Apr 2 '18 at 9:38

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