Typing Transliterated Arabic in MS Word

By: Mustafa Umar

Arabic is radically different from English, even in its letters. This causes a difficulty in transliteration. For example: the word for prayer is written “salah” while the word for peace is written “salam”. Anyone familiar with Arabic would know that the “s” in salah and the “s” in salam represent two completely different letters. Therefore, it is better to use Unicode characters to clarify this for the reader. Another example is with the word “salam” and “salaam”. Some people write the word for peace with three a’s rather than two to clarify that there is a long vowel near the end. “Salam”, without the long vowel, is also an Arabic word which refers to a type of economic transaction.

Therefore, to make things easier for readers of Arabic transliteration, special Unicode characters should be used. The word for prayer is written “ṣalah” [with a dot under the “s”] to specify that the letter is a ص and not a س. The word peace is written “salām” to clarify that we are referring to prayer and not an economic transaction.

To enable this feature in MS Word, download this file: Diacritic.dot

By double clicking on the file, MS Word will open and you can start typing the Unicode characters. Hold Alt and press “a”. You will see an “ā” with a line over it appear. There are six letters in Arabic which resemble six others, therefore, they should be differentiated in transliteration. Long vowels can be written as “aa”, “ii”, or “uu”, but it is much neater to use a line on top of that letter instead. Here is a table of options:

Alt + a = ā Alt + Shift + a = Ā Long vowel with alif
Alt + i = ī Alt + Shift + i = Ī Long vowel with yā
Alt + u = ū Alt + Shift + u = Ū Long vowel with wāw
Alt + d = ḍ Alt + Shift + d = Ḍ ض
Alt + h = ḥ Alt + Shift + h = Ḥ ح
Alt + s = ṣ Alt + Shift + s = Ṣ ص
Alt + t = ṭ Alt + Shift + t = Ṭ ط
Alt + z = ẓ Alt + Shift + z = Ẓ ظ
Alt + ` = ʿ ع

You will find it a hassle to have to load the Diacritic.dot file every time you want to transliterate, especially if you do it frequently. Here is how you can permanently load the file every time you open MS Office 2013 under Windows 7:

  1. Open “Windows Explorer”
  2. Go to “C:”
  3. Go to “Program Files” or “Program Files (x86)”
  4. Go to “Microsoft Office” or “Microsoft OfficeXX” [where XX stands for the version you have]
  5. Go to “root”
  6. Go to “OfficeXX” [where XX stands for the version you have]
  7. Go to “Startup”
  8. Copy the “Diacritic.dot” file into this directory

Now every time you load Word, it will automatically load the Diacritic.dot file for you.