As a designer, I’m frequently copying text from word docs or emails and pasting it into new documents in design software. The transition happens so quickly and with so little effort; it’s easy to think you pick your font, set the leading & kerning and are done. However, the command to copy sometimes brings with it some undesireables from whence it came. Today, we’ll focus on quotation marks. In type, we typically see two kinds of quotes: the straight primers (also called hatch marks or dumb quotes) and typographer’s quotes (the curly, weighted ones or smart quotes). Primers or dumb quotes should only be used when indicating the abbreviations for feet and inches. Unfortunately, there’s a glitch when smart quotes are transferred to an e-mail or HTML. Unless specifically tagged as smart quotes, they will generally turn to primers. Check out examples here (in the header, too, from fonts.com). Graphic designer, writer, and curator Ellen Lupton has also written a funny game to help one differentiate between smart and dumb quotes.
To combat dumb quotes, you can change your setting under Preferences of most design software. Under your Text options, check “Use Smart Quotes” (may also be called “Typographer’s Quotes.”) The downside is that your preference setting may not catch dumb quotes when pasted. The remaining options are to do a Find/Replace and/or scan through the text manually looking for primers used as quotation marks or apostrophes. Take the time to do this; details matter and truly separate the smart from the dumb.