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I'm making a UK phase 1 vegetation survey map and require to show the dominant plant species in a given polygon. In phase 1 these are shown as 2- or 3-letter codes e g Ri, Cys. These codes need to be located very precisely and as far as I can see, the various labelling options in QGIS do not allow sufficient precision. I am therefore trying to create point shapefiles for each dominant plant species. Is there a way of using multiple letters in the "font marker" symbol layer type?

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You can add another symbol layer:

Symbol layer

Select the new symbol layer, add your letter/symbol and alter the Offset X,Y, so in your case it would just be the X.

enter image description here

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You do not need to use symbols because labels are more efficient (and easy to use).

You can set the label position exactly where you want it.

You first create a column in your file with x coord and one with y, then set them (as you see in the image):

enter image description here

and then after that, you can move the label (using the tool "Move label").

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    Ahh, you learn something new everyday :) – Joseph Sep 18 '14 at 14:51
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For those of you here for the multiple font markers. Since QGIS version 3.8 you can add them.

While QGIS has long offered support for rendering points using font-based character markers, we’ve enhanced this functionality in 3.8 and now offer the ability to render multi-character strings! And since we’re always aiming to make the QGIS application interface as user-friendly and pleasant to use as possible, we also took the opportunity to tweak the UI for font markers and squash a number of frustrating GUI issues which previous versions suffered from. enter image description here

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