Typographic Tips: Apostrophes & Quotation Marks

Which glyph is correct: the inch, the acute, or the apostrophe? This article describes the proper use of the pesky punctuation mark that signifies omission and forms the possessive (and sometimes plurals).

Apostrophes

Prime symbol, used above to incorrectly create the possessive.

One correct use of the prime symbol is the representation of feet (a unit of measurement common in the United States); for example, 8′ = 8 feet.

Acute accent, used above to incorrectly create the possessive.

The acute accent is properly used as a component of diacritic characters; for example, á, é, í, ó, ú.

Apostrophe: an apostrophe is correctly used above to form the possessive.

In general, an apostrophe curves like a little number nine (9), but the specific form can vary depending on the overall typeface design.

Quotation Marks

Double prime symbol, used above to incorrectly set a quotation. The use of the double prime in quotations is often dubbed “dumb quotes.”

One correct use of the double prime symbol is the representation of inches (unit of measurement common in the United States); for example, 8′ 6" = 8 feet 6 inches.

Left and right double quotes. Quotation marks look similar to apostrophes. The left quotes opening the quotation above look like two little sixes (66), while the right quotes closing the quotation look like two little nines (99).

Different countries and languages have their own styles and customs for the setting of quotations. Get more information about local specifications.

Left and right single quotes. Different countries and languages have their own styles and customs for the setting of quotations. Get more information about local specifications.

HTML Values
Here are the HTML values of all the special characters used in these samples:

Akira Kobayashi is Linotype’s Type Director and an award-winning type designer.

Tags
Posted on: June 21, 2006

9 Comments on Typographic Tips: Apostrophes & Quotation Marks

  1. On the Mac (sorry, I do not know how to access on a PC), pressing Shift-Option-e will give you an angled prime (for the foot mark) and Shift-Option-g will give you a double angled prime (for the inch mark). Using a vertical prime or vertical double prime (aka, the non-curly quote) is just as typographically wrong as using non-curly quotes for quoting. A curious oversight.

  2. Having set InDesign and Word for typographer quotes, I find myself annoyed when I want to represent feet or inches. I wonder, what are simple keystrokes to use without having to reset, and reset again, preferences?

  3. Required reading for all professional designers!

  4. The article doesn’t answer the following question: is there a difference between the glyphs for a right single quotation mark and an apostrophe?

  5. ‘Nuff said!

  6. Echoing LesBrown’s comment, thanks for the very helpful and informative article, but the HTML value list at the end of it omits a critical detail – the character code for the typographic apostrophe itself??

  7. I understand that straight quotes are considered acceptable for primes, but it is more correct/preferable to use the actual (slightly-slanted) prime characters: ′ and ″ (′ and ″ or ′ and ″).

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_%28symbol%29

    Wes

  8. The numeric HTML entities did not come through as code in that last post. They are #8242 and #8243.

    Wes

  9. The use of the double prime in quotations is often dubbed dumb quotes.

    Was the use of double primes here intended as irony?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

*