Thursday, July 14, 2016

Typographic Pet Peeve #3: Inch Marks and Foot Marks and Apostrophes and Quotes (Oh My!)

Today's post (compared to post #1 and post #2 in this series) will be short and to the point. It has to do with the differences between (and the correct usage of) inch marks, foot marks, quote marks and apostrophes.

So here are the basics...
Quote marks and apostrophes are curved. Inch marks and foot marks are not.

Again, AS ALWAYS!, it comes down to the fact that the computer thinks it's smarter than you, and "smart" quotes are only as smart as the person typing.

If you leave smart quotes "on" in your software, then every time you type a measurement, it looks like this...

If you leave smart quotes "off" in your software, then every time you type a quote or apostrophy, it looks like this...

Now, I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to online things (e.g., this blog), I use the default marks (" and ') instead of the more proper marks ( “, ” and ’), because hand-adjusting the html code with the proper ascii codes is a pain in the ass. But I think people are generally forgiving of this. However, when it comes to layout, I do not tread lightly when it comes to the differences between the marks. In fact, on one proofing review of the Creature Compendium (print copies of which are now on sale for 20% off at, I did nothing more than check the foot marks, inch marks, quotes and apostrophes for proper formatting (yes... one entire round of proofing just to check those marks).

BE IT KNOWN THAT NOT ALL FONTS INCLUDE PROPER QUOTE MARKS AND APOSTROPHES! In these instances (usually for the title type of a book), I will try to find the visually-closest font that includes them, and just change the typesetting for those individual characters in the title type. And if I can't find anything usable, I create the type element as a standalone image (e.g., in Adobe Illustrator), then use the comma from the typeface and move it, copy it and rotate it as necessary to make the type work. That may sound like a lot of effort, but it's these little things that make the difference between "average" and "superior" graphic design (and prove how much/how little the designer cares).

So that's it. And before you start asking "How do I turn smart quotes off and on?"... here are some resources for you.

Key combo for proper (curly) quotes on mac (assuming smart quotes are off):
  • for left/open quote: Option-[
  • for right/close quote: Option-Shift-[
  • for left/open single quote: Option-]
  • for apostrophe/right single/close quote: Option-Shift-]
There is no key command for foot and inch marks on Mac. You will need to make sure smart quotes are off to type these.

Turning smart quotes off/on in Adobe InDesign >>

Turning smart quotes off/on in Adobe InDesign (Scroll down to "Use Smart Punctuation")

If you want to know how to turn smart quotes off and on in Photoshop, you won't get any help from me. Photoshop shouldn't be used for type. (Sorry. That's one of those places where I won't back down on my design snobbery.)

Changing quotation mark format in Microsoft Office Products >>


  1. You know if you ask nicely - I could probably fix the font for you if it is missing the necessary punctuation glyphs...

  2. Yes. It irks me too, and indeed spent entire proofreeding sessions doing just that.

    However, ' and " are not technically feet and inches marks either, they are straight quote marks, these (assuming bloggers input is encoding them properly) ′ and ″ are feet and inches marks, aka prime and double-prime. Straight quotes are definitely more acceptable than open/close quotes ” and ’ but still not right - even if it's become a commonplace substitute.

  3. Thanks for the heads up! I guess I'm proofing Blood & Treasure one more time ...

  4. Feet and inches are written with primes which should be slightly angled. See

  5. Feet and inches are written with primes which should be slightly angled. See

  6. In MS Office, there's a fairly simple fix. Type CTRL Z (undo) immediately after a smart-quote appears, and you get the appropriate foot or inch notation instead.

  7. I've been wondering how you are doing. I hope this series means you are alive and well.

    1. The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated. It's just been a crazy summer a lot of moving of furniture here and there (wife quitting one job, her starting small resale business, then her starting new job), some minor doctor visits (nothing major, just annoying and ongoing), and heavier-than-usual client load (which has generated more work than actual income).

      But now that my wife is back on the school year schedule, I'm getting my early mornings back, and should start making some regular posts again.

  8. Foot/apostrophe and inch/quote delineation falls under the category Close Enough for me. Folks are lucky I know how and when to use 'em, don't care if they're spot-on.