Diacritical marks

A diacritical mark is a sign that is written above or below a letter to indicate a difference in pronunciation, tone or stress from the same letter when unmarked. Umlauts, macrons, cedillas, dots, breves, accents and graves are examples of diacritical marks. Whether it’s because I didn’t learn French at school, or because I have a tendency to confuse left and right, I get accents and graves mixed up. I know that one goes to the left and one goes to the right, and that they appear above vowels, but I don’t actually know how or when to use them. If I ever have to type the word cafe, for example, I either leave the mark off altogether, because the word is still recognisable, or rely on the spellchecker! Macrons (a horizontal line above the letter) and umlauts (the double dot) don’t cause me nearly as much angst.