How to show pinyin in the top of Chinese characters on a MAC (Word)

This is what we’re aiming for.  Because otherwise you’re left writing ‘ni3 hao3 ma’ next to your characters.

Why you’d want to add pinyin & tone marks to characters?

  • Writing out pinyin for learning a song
  • Setting a test, and need characters to be clear
  • Taking notes for work and you know you won’t be able to recognise the characters after a while, but having the pinyin means at least you have the pronounciation
  • Making it easier to study a text/ read an article instead of having to write each character in a dictionary
  • Adding pronounciation cues for a video you’re making
  • Adding pronounication cues for a wordpress/ website.

If you know the tones already… then you can use a couple of websites.

Just search for ‘pinyin tone tools’ on google. Or something to that equivalent.

Press convert and it will put the tones on the top

Copy and paste this into whatever document you want.

shìjiè shàng zuì bàng de yǔyán jiù shì zhōngwén

However, it doesn’t put the pinyin and the tones on the top of the character like what you’d probably want.

Anyway, chances are, if you’re writing a test, preparing an article for uploading to a website, typing out Chinese song meanings etc.. you’re going to be doing in on a computer, probably using Microsoft Word.

If you’re a Windows user…

then the process is pretty simply, here’s a 30 second video to watch.

The only reason why you might not have this… is because you’re copy of windows is too old.
Update it, then it should be good.  But generally Windows users have no problem.
You’re just looking for this button, after you highlight your text.

Mac Users however…

it’s a bit more of a process.

Generally you will see this…

Which is frustrating as hell.

I spent a long time combing help forums to find the right combination of things to do to get the thing working. (The video below is a bit long so I laid it out in screen shots below)

There’s this video (above) which essentially tells you that you need to go to Word, ‘Preferences’, select ‘East Asian Languages’, Choose ‘Chinese Simplified’ from the drop down options, close and open Word again… and you should be good to go.

In picture format, this is what the steps are:





  1. Close word, and reopen it
  2. You will get this message:

  1. Choose either pinyin options. I particularly use Sougou pinyin.
  2. Type your text then…
  3. You should see this:

Now…..that’s awesome, but it doesn’t work for everyone.
And the reason why is that apparently Microsoft word is a bit cheeky when it comes to Mac users, and only supports the functionality if you are American.

What if East Asian Languages option is missing?

Turns out, that if you’re Australian, English, Canadian…whatever and your English is set to English (Aus) or English (UK) you won’t see the ‘East Asian Languages’ option.

Instead you will see this:

So yes, you have to set your Primary language to English (US) first.

Here’s how you do that.

  1. Go to ‘System Preferences’ and click on ‘Language & Region’ as shown.
  2. Add English (US) and drag and drop to the top of the list to make it the Primary.
  3. Close word and re-open it. And re-do the list above, this time on step 3. East Asian Languages will be an option

After you’ve been through this process again, when you type your Chinese, highlight it and click the Phonetic Guide button,

the pinyin and tones should come up automatically.

What happens if my Primary language is English (US) AND I’ve followed all steps and the pinyin/ Ruby text is still coming up empty?

One further thing to note, is that you version of Word for Mac has to be version 15.30 or higher.

I had this problem too… I was using version 15.27 and I was still seeing this when I followed all the steps:

In this case you have to update your version of Word.

Just click ‘Help’, then ‘Check for Updates’ and download the latest version.

Mine upgraded to Version 16.14.1 And everything now works fine.



If you’re using a pirated copy of Word… then of course this may not work.  But if you’re studying Chinese and or living in China…. Then of course there’s other ways to update your Word software.
Ask a Chinese friend and check on Taobao.
The real version of Word is cheap in China because Microsoft has had a big issue of piracy, and decreasing the price was the only way they could fight this.

If you’re a student prices are affordable.

What about adding the tones to WordPress or a different kind of website?


This is how your    looks on WordPress:

So it separates it out.

It will take a bit of manually moving it around to get it to look right.

Alternatively you can type the tones out yourself with the pinyin.

Here’s the result:

你好  nǐ hǎo

And here’s how you do it:

How do I just type pinyin, but not on the top of the characters?

This article sums it up pretty well, (opens in a new tab)

However I’ve done screenshots below as well.

For this you will need to add the ‘ABC Extended’ keyboard.

  1. Go to ‘System Preferences’ & choose ‘Keyboard’
  2. Click the + button, and type in ‘ABC’ then choose the ‘ABC Extended’ option
  3. Then when you want to type the tones on pinyin, choose it from your keyboard drop down list:


Use this picture guide from to type the correct tones

Eg. wǒ jìu xiǎng shuō wǒ wèi nǐ hěn jiāo’ ào


Hope all of this helps. Leave a comment if something is still missing, or you’re having trouble.