How to type Pīnyīn tone marks on a Mac

28 Jan

See what I did in the title? Pretty great, huh?

Yeah, I’m pretty proud of myself. Pīnyīn is helpful to know for representing characters, but sometimes you need to actually type the pīnyīn tone marks. And it turns out that there’s an easy way to do that!

Not that I really figured it out – credit actually goes to this guy’s page. If you’re good with reading, then you can just go to his page. But for those of us who like pictures, the picture process is below.

Open “System Preferences” and click on “Language and Text”.


From there, open the fourth tab, named “Input Sources”.


Scroll down the left-hand column until you reach “U.S. Extended”. Tick the box and untick “U.S.” (You could keep U.S., but I haven’t found a reason too. All of the keys are the same, just plus some extra.)


Go to the little flag in the upper-right corner, and scroll to select it if necessary.


And you’re good to go! The shortcuts for the tone marks are as follows:

Again taken from the page:

”  Tone 1 (flat) mā – Option + a, then hit a vowel key
Tone 2 (rising) má – Option + e, then hit a vowel key
Tone 3 (falling-rising) mǎ – Option + v, then hit a vowel key
Tone 4 (falling) mà – Option + `, then hit a vowel key

ǚ – Option + V, then hit V
ǜ – Option + `, then hit V  ”

Update: Also Option + u , then u will give you ü.

When you use these shortcuts, you get the little tone mark floating above where the vowels is going to be. Release both Option + _, then select your vowel. For example, in order to get the ī in Pī, I would type Option + a, then release both the keys and select i.

IMG_1938   ->   IMG_1940

Ta-da! It takes some getting used too – right now it takes me a ridiculously long time to type a single pīnyīn word – but I’m thinking that practice will make perfect. Many thanks to! If you have time, check it out. It’s an extremely cool blog/resource that covers everything from traveling light to writing your own textbook. And even better, he’s studying Chinese as well.

Hope this came in handy – edits and additional tips are welcome.


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