Wednesday, January 5, 2011

when good quotation marks go astray

Busy legal writers can be driven to the brink of sanity by quotation marks that face in the wrong direction.  On the legal writing professors' listserve, Jan Levine (at Duquesne University), has shared helpful information on what to do about this problem:

Levine "This fall I noticed a large number of strange errors in student papers, where they were writing a quotation-within-a-quotation, and the nested single quotation mark followed immediately after a double quotation mark at the start of a quotation.  The single opening quotation mark was oriented in the wrong direction, as if it was placed after the quoted text.

"So I did a little research on why this was happening.

"MS Word, Corel WordPerfect, Pages, and other word processors are set up to do what is called curly quotes, where the quotation marks (single or double) are curved (curly) and go in different directions before and after the language being quoted.  The older quotation marks are straight, sometimes being angled (and sometimes not). 

"MS Word's 'Smart Quotes' feature, which is turned on by default in Word Options, replaces all quotation marks with curly quotes.  But it has one error - the one I kept seeing.  There is no way to fix that behavior, other than turning off smart quotes, which will end up with the old style straight quotation marks. 

"There are a slew of explanations for curly quotes in MS Word, and how to change from one type to the other.  The problem is the algorithm MS Word uses, which ignores this one instance.

"For examples and explanations, click on these links:

"The only simple workaround I found was on the Typography for Lawyers site (and yes, the book and website are great!):

"Basically, what he suggests that if you run a search-and-replace within Word, changing single quotation marks to single quotation marks, the direction of the errant single quotation marks will be fixed.

"I took this one step further, and just recorded a simple Word macro to do exactly that procedure.  I named it FixCurlyQuotes (you cannot have spaces in MS Word macro names), saved it in my default template, and assigned it to the keystroke combination ctrl-alt-'.  If I then hit that keystroke combination, the macro will run and fix all the errors.  If you have never recorded a Word macro, it's not hard, and you'll not find one easier to create than this.

"Naturally, Corel WordPerfect does not have this problem."

hat tip:  Jan Levine


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With my version of Word, if I delete and replace a quotation mark, it will curl in the opposite direction.

Posted by: Otto Stockmeyer | Jan 6, 2011 8:53:59 AM

Prof. Levine's tips are also helpful to anyone who dictates using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which formats quotation marks as straight quotes.

Posted by: Hani Sarji | Jan 9, 2011 12:59:30 AM

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