How to Mark Accented Syllables

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The written word must translate to spoken word for best understanding. As you write words, the readers who read your writing may need pronunciation assistance, especially for unfamiliar words. A writer who wants to include this pronunciation key usually adds small marks to accent syllables. Once you learn how to mark accented syllables in words, your readers will know how to pronounce the words they read verbally.

Separate syllables by hyphens or spaces. For example, separate the words "boat-ing," and "charm-ing" with hyphens and the words "con tain er" and "doc u men ta ry" with spaces.

Say the words you wish to mark aloud to ensure you are pronouncing them properly. Using the same examples, "boating" and "charming" have the first syllables accented. The word "container" has the second syllable accented and the word "documentary" has the third syllable accented. Some words with several syllables may have a secondary syllable with an accent.

Place the primary accent mark immediately following the accented syllable to indicate the accented syllable. A single quotation mark indicates the primary accent. For example, write "boat'-ing," "charm'-ing," "con tain' er" and "doc u men' ta ry."

Add a secondary accent mark along with the primary accent mark, when applicable. A double quotation mark indicates a secondary accent and a single quotation mark indicates primary accent. For example, write "cur" i os' i ty" or "u" ni ver' si ty."


  • Another way to indicate a primary accent is to place the accented syllable in all capital letters. For example, write "HIS to ry" or "en-cy-clo-PE-di-a."