The wikipedia article for ə says, “In MacOS with the U.S. Extended keyboard, the letters Ə ə are made with Option+Shift+: followed by shift+A or a respectively.”

When I follow these instructions (on a Macbook Pro) I get: ÚA or Úa.

I know I can get it from the Emoji & Symbols panel, but I need a way to type it quickly.

2 Answers 2


"US Extended" is now called the "ABC Extended" keyboard. Schwa is made exactly the way that article and you describe.

The results you are getting are what happens when you are actually using a different input source, such as US or US International PC. Make sure that the "flag" menu at the top right of the screen says ABC Extended.

Note that selecting an item in System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources does not do anything, you need to have the keyboard you want shown in the menu bar, where you can also actually set them.

If you prefer to switch keyboards without using the "flag" menu, you can set a keyboard shortcut for this in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Input Sources.

  • If it's necessary to include the menu-bar hint, then it seems adequate to also hint at the keyboard shortcuts? Mar 1, 2019 at 15:24
  • You wrote "you have to set …in… menu bar". Minimal technicality: not entirely true. But a user not aware of switching sources in menu might benefit from "SysPrefs>Kbd>ShortCuts>Input Sources" as well, where you can set a switch method also. Mar 1, 2019 at 15:49
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    @Quinn Comendant For iOS you need to either use a hardware keyboard or download an app like Unicode Pad. I think there are even apps especially for iPA. Mar 1, 2019 at 17:13
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    @Yuri.teacher.English. You are not using the correct input source. It must be ABC Extended. You must see that in the top right corner of the screen, not “us”. Apr 18, 2021 at 16:45
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    @Yuri.teacher.English What do you see when. you type Option Shift ; by itself and let go? It should be № in yellow. Then type a. The hardware doesn't matter. Apr 20, 2021 at 15:48

macOS text replacement is an easy and very flexible way to functionally remap one obscure character to another.

Here, for example is how to produce a schwa with ⌥S (normally ß):

  1. Choose  > System Settings > Keyboard: Text Replacements…
  2. Choose Edit > Emoji & Symbols.
  3. Set Replace and With to whatever you like.

macOS text replacement dialog box

  • Some apps like Office do not use Apple's text replacement, so in those cases you have to duplicate the entries in their own system. Jun 26, 2023 at 12:00

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