When punctuation goes rogue

Even when you know how to use all the punctuation marks perfectly, they can still cause you headaches. Take quote marks and apostrophes, for example. Sometimes they don’t look how you expect, and sometimes they point in the wrong direction.

Directional quotes and straight quotes are different

Image, Directional quotes and straight quotes.

Wondering what the difference is? Image by Airborne84 / CC0

Directional quotes look like little 6s and 9s. Straight quotes are vertical.

If you write as part of your work, using directional quotes looks more professional than straight quotes. Straight quotes tend to look like something typed on a manual typewriter.

To get directional quotes when you type in Microsoft Word, go to File > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect, and tick the box that says ‘Replace straight quotes with smart quotes’.

Be aware that straight quotes often sneak in when you copy and paste from another document.

Directional quotes sometimes point the wrong way

Sometimes we use punctuation to show that the beginning of a word has been omitted, as in ’cause for because. As you type it, your computer will most likely use an opening quotation mark (shaped like a 6), because that’s usually what you want at the beginning of a word. But what you want in this case is an apostrophe (shaped like a 9). The tail of the apostrophe should point towards the letters that are missing.

Our ‘cheat’ for getting the apostrophe the right way round? Type it at the end of the preceding word, then adjust your spacing so it sits at the beginning of the word that you’ve shortened. Or, type two quote marks in a row, then delete the first one. (Here at Write we know all the tricks.)

Learn more about punctuation and proofreading

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