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 . It’s just as relevant to modern web type as it was to early desktop publishing.
“ = Alt-[
” = Alt-Shift-[
« = Alt-\
» = Alt-Shift-\
‘ = Alt-]
’ = Alt-Shift-]
— = Alt--
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
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 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