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I’m disappointed by her use of straight apostrophes (') in contractions and straight quotes ("") around quotations. Using typographic apostrophes, typographic quotation marks, and em dashes in the right places makes all the difference, especially in headlines.

Nowadays, web designers have so many typographic tools to work with, like @font-face and lettering.js, but basic punctuation and formatting don’t get enough love.

It’s an oldie, but I think everyone working with web type should read Robin Williams’ The Mac is not a typewriter [0]. It’s just as relevant to modern web type as it was to early desktop publishing.

[0] http://www.amazon.com/Mac-not-typewriter-Robin-Williams/dp/0...

As a technically lay person who does care about this, what are some tools that I can use to write web copy with typographically correct apostrophes and quotes (or convert it afterwards)? Am I supposed to use the html code or special key combination every time?

If you're on the Mac:

    “ = Alt-[
    ” = Alt-Shift-[
    « = Alt-\
    » = Alt-Shift-\
    ‘ = Alt-]
    ’ = Alt-Shift-]
    — = Alt--
For other operating systems there are typographic layouts, such as http://ilyabirman.ru/english/typography-layout/

There are libraries that can do the conversion, such as SmartyPants: http://daringfireball.net/projects/smartypants/

In HTML, it's pretty easy to remember a few typographic characters that you'll need, see http://www.degraeve.com/reference/specialcharacters.php

Thanks for those suggestions. So, then, do you (or others) actually use those key combinations instead of ' and " while writing/typing? That seems like a fairly heavy re-working of a very low level muscle-memory process that would take me a long time to habit-change.

I don't use any of the software that Smartypants supports, but I just started playing with Pandoc http://johnmacfarlane.net/pandoc/ yesterday, and it has a --smart flag, so that's probably what I'll go with.

As I also recently started trying to learn vim (it's hard), I might try this: http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2005/10/smart_quotes_and_... too.

In case anyone else is in a similar position.

For my blogs, etc. I just process everything via Textile/SmartyPants/similar.

For other writing, I don't bother to insert proper quote marks, but usually use a proper dash.

BTW, Mac OS X since 10.6 can automatically replace quotes in any Cocoa textview, but I have it turned off.

The problem with "smart typography" is that is must be language-aware: quotes used in «Russian» are different from “English” and „German“ and »other« »styles»: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-English_usage_of_quotation_...

  As a technically lay person who does care about this, 
  what are some tools that I can use to write web copy 
  with typographically correct apostrophes and quotes
I use Textpattern CMS, which has built-in support for Textile (they were built by the same developer.) Textile converts marked-up text input to valid, well-formed XHTML and also inserts character entity references for apostrophes, opening and closing single and double quotation marks, ellipses and em dashes.


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