Using digraphs in VIM

Many of us want to write not just text, but text which is graphically pleasant. When we use WYSIWYG type of writing software (or word processors) like Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, we have to look for special symbols in the special tables and insert symbols with the mouse, or we have to learn how to insert those symbols via Unicode codes.

VIM allows you insert most of the such symbols (in VIM they are called «digraphs») using key bindings which are easy to remember.

To insert digraph in the insert mode type Ctrl + K and key combination of the digraph. E.g. to insert press Ctr+K OK.

You can find most used digraphs here.

But I will show few extra which I found useful.

Digrapsh Symbol Key combination
Non-breaking space   Ctrl+K Space Space
Euro currency Ctrl+K Eu or Ctrl+K =e
En dash Ctrl+K -N
Em dash Ctrl+K -M
Quotation marks Guillemet « » Ctrl+K << and Ctrl+K >>
Paragraph sign § Ctrl+K SE
Number symbol Ctrl+K N0
Copyright © Ctrl+K Co
Registered trade mark ® Ctrl+K Rg
Grad Celsius Ctrl+K oC
Grad ° Ctrl+K ~o
Greek µ letter1 µ Ctrl+K My
Approximately equal Ctrl+K ?2 or Ctrl+K 2?
Not equal Ctrl+K !=
Left single line arrow Ctrl+K <- or Ctrl+K -<
Right single line arrow Ctrl+K >- or Ctrl+K ->
Double single line arrow Ctrl+K <>
Left dual line arrow Ctrl+K <=
Right dual line arrow Ctrl+K =>
Double dual line arrow Ctrl+K ==
Less or equal than Ctrl+K =<
More or equal than Ctrl+K >=
Is much less than Ctrl+K <*
More or equal than Ctrl+K >*
Plus minus ± Ctrl+K +-

If you are making text for publishing, e.g. in PDF format, it is good to know difference between «hyphen», «en dash» and «em dash». They have different length. Hyphen is the shortest line of three, “en dash” has length of “n” letter and “em dash” has length of “m” letter.

Sign Symbol
Hyphen -
En dash
Em dash

Guillemet style of quotation marks is used in many languages such as Russian, French, Spanish, etc. But also in English text Guillemet marks sometimes look nicer than standard single or double quites. Guillemet quotation marks allow to emphasize text stronger, than that standard English double quotes, and also allow to avoid using of the bold font for emphasis.

For example:

I want to emphasize word “neutral” in the text and I can do it in many ways. I can do it with standard double quotes like this - “neutral”, but when text paragraph is too large, then this word is lost for the eye. Or I can use bold text and then neutral becomes dominating too much. But with Guillemet quotation marks we now have third option and «neutral» is visible, but also does not stand out too much from the rest text.

To see the full table of digraphs just type following command in VIM:



VIM digraphs extend your ability to write text with symbols matching the content which is easier to read and understand.

In most cases source text (I use Markdown) can be converted to any other format for presentation (PDF, DOCX, etc.) without much problems. But sometimes when printing to PDF, fonts cannot show all digraphs and then those digraphs have to be removed or other fonts shall be used for publishing. I can recommend to use this XITS Math font to print text rich with mathematical signs.

  1. It is useful when one writes about e.g. some measurements. Then µs is “microseconds”, µg is “microgram”. ↩︎