Vocab Lesson 1: SMART QUOTES

Vocab Lesson 1: SMART QUOTES As our first Vocab Lesson of the fall semester, we're going to make sure you know the meaning of "smart quotes." They are one of those things that can scream "amateur!" no matter how good a designer you are. Plus it's a term we use a lot here (you'll see soon enough). And in order for you to truly appreciate how witty we are, you gotta know what it means. So...

Smart quotes are officially known as typographer's quotes, and are also referred to as curly quotes. Really, they're the true quotation marks. Cause dumb quotes aka straight quotes -- which is what you get in most computer programs by default -- are officially known as primes and are used in measurements such as inches or feet.

SmartQuotes2.gifAs you can see here, curly quotes aren't always totally curly. In many sans serif fonts, they'll appear angled and slanted, and if you look closely, you'll see the opening and closing marks taper differently.

Even decorative and script fonts use smart quotes, although some of the free fonts you may find online don't always have both. In that case, you can try using the quotes from a different but similar font (although that's probably best done with display type only).

You can use keyboard commands to manually insert smart quotes, but that would take a lot of extra work when there's lots of text. So it's a good idea to set your preferences in your layout program to automatically use smart quotes (usually referred to as typographers' quotes). Just be aware that you'll then need to make sure you manually enter the primes for measurements.
Another option instead of keyboard shortcuts is to use the "Glyphs" palette in InDesign (found under the "Type" menu). That will show you all the available characters for a font, and if you scroll through the whole list, you'll see the straight and curly quotes. Put your cursor where you want the quote mark to appear and then double-click the wanted glyph.

Disclaimer: Ignore the fact that you mostly will see straight quotes on this blog ... something to do with HTML and all that stuff we don't really understand. Supposedly there are ways to fix that, but we've yet to figure it out. So unfortunately you'll be seeing bad examples here. Forgive our hypocrisy.

"Vocab Lesson" is a recurring feature on our SPD Student Blog. Tune in every Wednesday for a new word of the week. And if you come across a term you can't quite figure out, email it to us at spdstudentoutreach@gmail.com and we'll define it in a future post.

  • Kenneth J. Vella

    Smart quotes are easy to reproduce in HTML. Instead of typing the " and ' characters using your keyboard, you'd have to write the following in the HTML source code:

    ‘ or ’ (left/right single quote) = ‘ ’

    “ or ” (left/right double quote) = “ ”

    So this sentence: They are one of those things that can scream "amateur!"

    would be entered in HTML as: They are one of those things that can scream “amateur!”

    Of course you can also copy the correct smart quotes characters directly from the Character Map (Windows) or whatever's available for the Mac.

  • Jeff

    We definitely would have been crucified at review in the program I was in @ University of Missouri - Saint Louis, and people don't even know there's a program at the school

    I like the simplicity of the very first image.

  • Nancy Stamatopoulos

    Fantastic tutorial! Posted it to my curriculum for my students at Pratt. I better not see any straight quotes in those portfolios come May.

  • Okay, everyone, print out this post and tack it up on the wall next to your computer. Better yet, mat and frame it. If an Art Director or Designer has even one dumb quote in their resume, it belongs in the trash. Period. And, don't EVEN have any in your portfolio. No joke: really.

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