Smart Quotes for Smart People

"This isn't right"

Thats better!

Good typography uses smart quotes, not dumb quotes

“Smart quotes,” the correct quotation marks and apostrophes, are curly or sloped. "Dumb quotes," or straight quotes, are a vestigial constraint from typewriters when using one key for two different marks helped save space on a keyboard. Unfortunately, many improper marks make their way onto websites because of dumb defaults in applications and CMSs. Luckily, using correct quotation marks and apostrophes today is easier than you think. The simplest method is to use charset utf-8 on your webpages and just type or copy and paste the actual punctuation marks.

  Mac Windows on number pad Ubuntu Entities without charset utf-8
Single opening Mac: ⌥ Opt + ] Windows: Alt + 0 1 4 5 Ubuntu: Shift + Alt + < ' Entities: &lsquo; or &#8216;
Single closing & apostrophe Mac: ⌥ Opt + ⇧ Shift + ] Windows: Alt + 0 1 4 6 Ubuntu: Shift + Alt + > ' Entities: &rsquo; or &#8217;
Double opening Mac: ⌥ Opt + [ Windows: Alt + 0 1 4 7 Ubuntu: Shift + Alt + < " Entities: &ldquo; or &#8220;
Double closing Mac: ⌥ Opt + ⇧ Shift + [ Windows: Alt + 0 1 4 8 Ubuntu: Shift + Alt + > " Entities: &rdquo; or &#8221;

Not all smart quotes look the same

blocky sloped

Some typefaces have quotation marks that look more blocky or sloped* rather than curly, and that’s OK too. The look of punctuation marks is a stylistic choice made by a typeface’s designer.

*mirrored sloped quotes are also known as “signpainters’ quotes.”

Should I use straight quotes for measurements?

Feet and inches

“He was 64 and full of muscle”

Latitude and longitude

40° 44 54.3588 N, 73° 59 8.3616 W

What you want are called “primes.” Primes are punctuation used to express things like coordinates on a map, time, and measurements in feet and inches. They look like slanted straight quotes and come in single (′), double (″), or triple (‴) variations.

Is it ever OK to use straight quotes?

When dealing with code, straight quotes are often required. Otherwise, straight quotes should never appear in your design work and professional writing, unless you are making a site about proper punctuation.

Further reading & resources

Disclaimer: The above punctuation marks and shortcuts are used for the English language. Other languages may use different marks and shortcuts, or use these marks differently.