Fancy and plain quotes

rogersgeorge on January 8th, 2010

Word processors have advanced a lot since I started out in computing (a 64K Color Computer, on which I taught myself BASIC). When you type a quotation mark, the big word processors figure out which direction to make the curly quotes.  Text editors and other simple word processors generally use the simpler straight quotes.

Aside: I am the proud owner of a pocket knife I inherited from my grandfather that has the word “Rajah” inscribed on it, and the closing quote is not an upside-down version of the opening quotes. It’s a mirror image, which is how they ought to be. That convention died out a long time ago when typographers eliminated a bin of punctuation marks by turning the opening marks over. Since they were doing it all by hand, I suppose I can’t blame them, but I still like mirror-image marks.

By convention nowadays, we use the curly quotes for quotation marks, and the straight quotes as an abbreviation for feet and inches. This is a useful distinction, but how do you get your word processor to make the straight ones when you need them?

Here’s something I just discovered:

In the latest version of MS Word, version 2007, you can get straight quotes by typing the quote key, then pressing the backspace key. The curly changes to straight. Slick; only one extra keystroke.

Have you discovered a handy shortcut for something you do when you write? Share!

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3 Responses to “Fancy and plain quotes”

  1. This is one that probably everybody knows, but whatever. Here’s how to get an en-dash in MS Word:

    Type the word before the en-dash.
    Then type a space, two hyphens, and another space.
    Type the word after the en-dash.
    Type a space.

    Hocus pocus! The two hyphens magically turn into an en-dash!

  2. Thank you, Melissa.
    And no doubt you also know that if you type the two hyphens without the surrounding spaces, you get an M-dash.

  3. This actually works for anything that Word automatically changes from what you type. Be it the fancy quotes, or changing the capitalization of an acronym, etc.

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