World Cup Soccer’s Spanish Accent Mark: For Mexico and a Times Editor, It’s a Win-Win

A debate that has really caused passions to flare started in 2010, when the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language (the organization that encompasses all 23 academies) recommended we stop using the accent mark when writing “solo,” — which can mean “alone,” “simply” or “just,” depending on the context.

Some people refused to do so. Others, like me, have stopped using the accent.

Q. What was the turning point in your life that made you a lover of language and how it is used?

A. I remember I used to enjoy doing grammar analysis, and I was in a spelling and orthography competition. But it wasn’t until I started #117errores that I truly found my vocation and knew it was what I wanted to dedicate myself to.

Q. You should write a book on Spanish grammar.

Well, I am working on the stylebook for The New York Times en Español. That in itself is quite the challenge.

Q. How challenging is it for The New York Times en Español to write in a Spanish acceptable to a broad audience of Spanish speakers? And shouldn’t that be “español” with a small e?

When we started out, in January 2016, the idea was to use a form of Spanish that all of us understood. In the newsroom we have had Venezuelan, Colombian, Mexican, Spanish and Argentine journalists. Working together, it became clear that we were using an artificial form of Spanish that seemed foreign to us, and in turn negating the richness of our language. All variants are lovely and they add to our understanding of the world.

We are not looking for a “neutral” Spanish; instead, we seek to add value and meaning to variations from the Spanish-speaking countries from which we have the most readers, always taking care that the Spanish we use is comprehensible. There are more Mexicans in the newsroom than journalists of other Spanish-speaking nationalities, so I suppose sometimes our voice wins out, but we try to be as pluralistic as possible.

Regarding the small letter “e,” we capitalize The New York Times en Español since that is the official name of the project, but if we were speaking of español as a language, then we would use lowercase.

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Randal C. Archibold is a deputy sports editor and former Mexico City bureau chief.

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