Apostrophe directions in typography

Okay, kind of a weird question here.

When writing dialogue in a story, I like to use casual speech (when appropriate to the character). Things such as:

  • Show 'em what you’ve got!

  • That’s nothin’

…and so on. I’m writing in Word, which changes all apostrophes to curly quotes. The trouble is, sometimes these curly quotes end up pointing in the wrong direction. So sometimes writing 'em will result in a left-facing curly quote, and sometimes a right-facing one. Same thing with dropped g’s or other letters.

What is the rule about which way apostrophes should face when used for ellisions or dropped letters, etc.? Does it matter if it’s at the beginning of the word or at the end? What if it’s in the middle? I’m a bit dizzy from over-editing and by now everything looks wrong to me! Help!

An apostrophe is *always *a close quote. No exceptions. Word gets it wrong when it’s at the beginning, so it needs to be fixed manually.

If you do want curly quote style apostrophes, a simple expedient is to type two apostrophe characters befpre a word clipped (and hence taking an apostrophe) at its beginning, like 'em. The result is two curly quotes in sequence, one open and one close, looking like a small superscripted 69 (no pun intended). One then goes back and deletes the open-quote one (the “6”).

I find the parsing consistent. At the beginning of a word it curls east, six-like. In the middle or end of a word, it curls west, nine-like. No exceptions.

If you can find exceptions, it would help a lot if you could give precise context.

Curly quotes are the devil! Turn 'em off!

Ha! I love when there are always rules that then others reveal to have exceptions. :slight_smile: Oh English language, you are a flighty and demanding mistress.

I do see confirmation that apostrophes are indeed always mini-nines. I’ve tried the trick with typing two apostrophes, Polycarp, but I sometimes end up with the little dudes ending up in the same direction anyway. Frustrating!

Brown Eyed Girl, I’m totes with you about curly quotes. Usually I turn them off. Trouble is my publisher uses them and he wants me to use 'em too, since he basically takes my Word document and creates a PDF out of it, and is too [del]lazy[/del] [del]technologically phobic[/del] busy to change them himself.

Couldn’t you just use straight quotes while creating the document and then change them all en masse when you’re done? I guess that wouldn’t really fix it if you want nines instead of sixes in front of 'ems.

What an odd sentence that was.

***NOW ***these are correct. If they are apostrophes (replacing a letter, as opposed to quotes), they are ***always ***like little nines. It’s a simple rule, and AFAIK, there are no exceptions.

BTW, to get the correct character on a Mac, you type “option-shift-close bracket.” What is it on a PC?

The reason the apostrophes came out facing both directions is that Word mistakenly thought they were single quotation marks, and chose accordingly. It had no way of knowing that they were apostrophes, as they were not being used in words that typically have apostrophes (isn’t, wasn’t, Pete’s, etc.). All it knows is that if you have one apostrophe and then another at a place where one would not normally find an apostrophe, then it must be a quotation mark.

Of course. But if ***you ***know how it should be, you should change it. You don’t have to settle for what Word does if you know it’s wrong.

Far better would be to use another symbol for apostrophes (say `), and then do a global replace (with ’) when you are finished.

’ = ALT-0146 (Remember to use the Number pad.)

Mostly the same, if you install a Mac-cloned keyboard layout. Have to enable and use AltGR (right-alt) as option, but other than that, my Mac and Windows keyboards are mostly identical.

I would just like to say that it has bugged me forever that the left and right double quotation marks are both on the left bracket key, and the left and right single quotation marks are both on the right bracket key. How counter-intuitive can you get?

I was going to call you nuts, but then a Google Images seach shows that you’re right. I don’t remember this behavior; when did it change? The open bracket always used to be open quotes, and the close bracket used to be close quotes. These were routine keys back before every program did typographic quotes automatically. I’m certainly not mistaking my ancient muscle memory, am I?

On a Mac at least, it was always the way it is now.

I know the question has already been answered, but you can find a small table of keyboard shortcuts for Mac and Windows here:

Also in some Windows programs (like Microsoft Word) there are easier shortcuts for curly quotes and accented letters. Involving the “Ctl” key. I don’t remember them offhand but you can find it somewhere in the help.

I never knew that my love is curly quotes would make a me a supporter of Satan. How when why where whence did this come to be?

Or, just create a Word shortcut so that say, CTRL/ALT/’ (apostrophe) is an apostrophe. It doesn’t take long to program your fingers to type it this way without thinking.

Obviously. I was explaining why Word did what it did (mistakenly), so feel free to fix it.

that’s not correct. IN the beginning of a word, it’s not a quote mark. It’s an apostrophe. Apostrophes look like a nine; if it looks like a six it’s not an apostrophe. It’s a quote mark.

For context, I give you the last couple centuries of typography, pre-Bill Gates.