Normally accents are not something we need to worry about in English. The exception of course, is the use of foreign words. Here are a few common examples.
- à la carte
- raison d’être
- tête à tête
- pièce de résistance
It’s no surprise that many of them are French. After all, at least a third of the English language is taken from French. And with these terms come diacritic marks that don’t exist in English. The question is, do you have to include them?
Some words or phrases have entered into the English language and are no longer really borrowed, more like adopted. So words like ‘resume’ are very commonly written without an accent and are used with no special affectation. They are part of the English language.
Others are borrowed. These would be words or phrases like pièce de résistance that are still seen as foreign. No matter how common, people hear these words or phrases and think “that’s French.” These borrowed terms are borrowed as is… diacritic marks and all. Stylistically speaking, they are typically written in italics, precisely to highlight their other-ness.
So which ones have been taken in as part of English and which ones are just on loan?
I think an argument could be made for many of these. To my mind what matters is consistency: remove diacritic marks for those treated as part of the English language and italicize those treated as foreign terms.
What do you guys think?
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