Book Design Basics: Quotation Marks and Primes

Today’s post by  originally appeared on his blog on October 25, 2015.

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Book Design Basics: Quotation Marks and Primes

smart-quotes-preferredWrit­ers often ask about the dif­fer­ence be­tween “straight” or “dumb” quo­ta­tion marks and tra­di­tional print­ers’ quotes, com­monly re­ferred to as “smart quotes” or “curly quotes.” Add in the need to dis­tin­guish be­tween left sin­gle quotes and apos­tro­phes, and the primes used to spec­ify feet and inches or min­utes and sec­onds and you end up with a ty­po­graphic co­nun­drum that con­founds many a ca­pa­ble au­thor. This ar­ti­cle ex­am­ines the var­i­ous types of quotes and primes and ex­plains how to use them.

Book De­sign Ba­sics: Straight or Dumb Quotes

Straight quotes evolved to fa­cil­i­tate in­for­mal writ­ing sit­u­a­tions. When typ­ing into a dis­cus­sion forum, twit­ter feed, or com­ment box, use your apos­tro­phe and dou­ble-quote keys for all the spe­cial char­ac­ters (ex­cept the “de­grees” sym­bol.) “Dumb” text ed­i­tors don’t try to fig­ure out which di­rec­tion to slant your punc­tu­a­tion. “Dumb” writ­ers don’t have to go to the “in­sert spe­cial char­ac­ters” di­a­log box or re­mem­ber spe­cial key se­quences for each type of mark.

Con­sider the var­i­ous punc­tu­a­tion styles needed to ren­der the fol­low­ing ex­am­ple:

straight quotation marks example

Straight quotes make it quick and easy to ex­press a thought. You don’t have to be a ty­pog­ra­pher to make your­self un­der­stood. In the right sit­u­a­tions, “dumb quotes” are a smart idea.

Read the full post on The Worlds Greatest Book.