Emacs: Remove Accent Marks

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Here's a emacs command that removes accent marks, or, convert some Unicode characters into ASCII. (aka Zap Gremlins)

For example:

(defun xah-asciify-text (&optional @begin @end)
  "Remove accents in some letters and some
Change European language characters into equivalent ASCII ones, e.g. “café” ⇒ “cafe”.
When called interactively, work on current line or text selection.

URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/emacs_zap_gremlins.html'
Version 2018-11-12"
  (let (($charMap
          ["ß" "ss"]
          ["á\\|à\\|â\\|ä\\|ā\\|ǎ\\|ã\\|å\\|ą\\|ă\\|ạ\\|ả\\|ả\\|ấ\\|ầ\\|ẩ\\|ẫ\\|ậ\\|ắ\\|ằ\\|ẳ\\|ặ" "a"]
          ["æ" "ae"]
          ["ç\\|č\\|ć" "c"]
          ["é\\|è\\|ê\\|ë\\|ē\\|ě\\|ę\\|ẹ\\|ẻ\\|ẽ\\|ế\\|ề\\|ể\\|ễ\\|ệ" "e"]
          ["í\\|ì\\|î\\|ï\\|ī\\|ǐ\\|ỉ\\|ị" "i"]
          ["ñ\\|ň\\|ń" "n"]
          ["ó\\|ò\\|ô\\|ö\\|õ\\|ǒ\\|ø\\|ō\\|ồ\\|ơ\\|ọ\\|ỏ\\|ố\\|ổ\\|ỗ\\|ộ\\|ớ\\|ờ\\|ở\\|ợ" "o"]
          ["ú\\|ù\\|û\\|ü\\|ū\\|ũ\\|ư\\|ụ\\|ủ\\|ứ\\|ừ\\|ử\\|ữ\\|ự"     "u"]
          ["ý\\|ÿ\\|ỳ\\|ỷ\\|ỹ"     "y"]
          ["þ" "th"]
          ["ď\\|ð\\|đ" "d"]
          ["ĩ" "i"]
          ["ľ\\|ĺ\\|ł" "l"]
          ["ř\\|ŕ" "r"]
          ["š\\|ś" "s"]
          ["ť" "t"]
          ["ž\\|ź\\|ż" "z"]
          [" " " "]       ; thin space etc
          ["–" "-"]       ; dash
          ["—\\|一" "--"] ; em dash etc
        $begin $end
    (if (null @begin)
        (if (use-region-p)
            (setq $begin (region-beginning) $end (region-end))
          (setq $begin (line-beginning-position) $end (line-end-position)))
      (setq $begin @begin $end @end))
    (let ((case-fold-search t))
        (narrow-to-region $begin $end)
         (lambda ($pair)
           (goto-char (point-min))
           (while (search-forward-regexp (elt $pair 0) (point-max) t)
             (replace-match (elt $pair 1))))
(defun xah-asciify-string (@string)
  "Returns a new string. European language chars are changed ot ASCII ones e.g. “café” ⇒ “cafe”.
See `xah-asciify-text'
Version 2015-06-08"
      (insert @string)
      (xah-asciify-text (point-min) (point-max))

[see Accent Marks: Trema, Umlaut, Macron, Circumflex]

( thanks to robert_nagy for adding chars)

Accumulator vs Parallel Programing

This problem makes a good parallel programing exercise. See: Parallel Programing Exercise: asciify-string.

Alternative Solution with “iconv” or perl

Yuri Khan and Teemu Likonen suggested using the “iconv” shell command. See man iconv. Here's Teemu's code.

(defun asciify-string (string)
"Convert STRING to ASCII string.
For example:
“passé” becomes “passe”"
;; Code originally by Teemu Likonen
    (insert string)
    (call-process-region (point-min) (point-max) "iconv" t t nil "--to-code=ASCII//TRANSLIT")
    (buffer-substring-no-properties (point-min) (point-max))))

Julian Bradfield suggested Perl. Here's his one-liner, it removes chars with accent marks.

perl -e 'use encoding utf8; use Unicode::Normalize; while ( <> ) { $_ = NFKD($_); s/\pM//g; print; }'


Though, it would be nice to have a pure elisp solution, because “iconv” is not in Windows or Mac OS X as of .

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