I have mentioned my dislike for straight quotes in ebooks in earlier posts. I think they look amateurish and unfinished. Some people don’t mind them. Many people probably don’t even notice them. So this is one of those areas where personal preference should be the deciding factor.
This is from the w3schools html character reference guide:
Reserved Characters in HTML
Some characters are reserved in HTML and XHTML. For example, you cannot use the greater than or less than signs within your text because the browser could mistake them for markup.
HTML and XHTML processors must support the five special characters listed in the table below:
|Character||Entity Number||Entity Name||Description|
(And look! This browser screwed up the copy/paste (or fixed it) and the table above isn’t complete. Follow the link to see the entire table with entity numbers.)
Keywords here: “…the browser could mistake them for markup.”
That is not a good thing. Ereading devices are essentially browsers and giving them an opportunity to mistake something is a big fat goof waiting to happen.
If your preference is for straight quotes (double and single) then go with your preference, but remember to code them either with the entity number or the entity name.
If you do go with curly quotes (or smart quotes), you’ll run into the frustration of them being turned occasionally backward by the infinite wisdom of your word processor (which insists upon doing what it’s told rather than what you mean). It’s a pain when you’re being a good doobie, composing your masterpiece with the auto-correct functions turned off in order to create a clean source file, but when you run a Find/Replace to turn on the curly quotes, quotes after em dashes or ellipses that should be right double quotes are instead turned into left double quotes, to name just one example.
You can however find and correct your curly double and single quotes with Find/Replace. I only know how to do it manually in Word. In a text editor I can do Replace All. In either case, it shouldn’t take long and the key is the search terms you use.
In Word look for instances where you’ve used double quotes before or after an elllipis or em dash. (I’d type the actual characters, but wordpress wants to “correct” them for me)
- dash dash double quote
- double quote dash dash
- double quote period period period
- period period period double quote
Or, if you’ve already converted your dashes into proper em dashes, do your search for:
- ^+ double quote
- double quote ^+
You get the picture, right? If you find an instance where the quote mark is turned the wrong direction, you can fix it. If you’re doing this in a text editor, you can search for the actual characters and do a Replace All to make sure they are turned the right way.
I also like to check for gremlin induced wrong way quote marks. I know right double quotes don’t belong at the beginning of a paragraph or sentence, and left double quotes don’t belong at the ends. In a text editor I run these searches:
- <p>right double quote
- left double quote</p>
- (space bar)right double quote
- left double quote(space bar)
I can either do the corrections manually or run a Replace All.
Single quote marks and apostrophes tend to turn the way they should. But here is a fun little gremlin that I’d never noticed until it was pointed out to me (and now I can’t unsee it!). I don’t even know what you’d call these, but I’m going with truncated contractions—words with their front ends chopped off, usually in dialogue. Examples:
- ’em—as in “Smoke ’em if you got ’em.” (th)em
- ’cause—as in “‘Cause I said so.” (be)cause
- ’round—as in “Ain’t seen him ’round these parts.” (a)round
These words are contractions, which call for an apostrophe, and that means a RIGHT single quote mark. Fortunately, left single quotes aren’t used all that much in most American writing. You can search for specific usages (if you remember all the truncated contractions you used) or, if you’re in a text editor, you can search for left single quotes and change them to right single quotes as necessary.
Is this a pain. Yep. It’s worth it, though.