Using the wrong quote marks is one of the most common errors I see. Especially true in books not professionally typeset. Depending on the font you are using it may be more or less visible that you’ve used the wrong quote marks. But either way, no author wants to have errors in their work. It distracts readers from the brilliance of their story. I’ve highlighted that before in Proofread Like A Boss.

There are two types of symbols that look very similar and yet they actually have very different meanings.

Quote marks, single quotes, and apostrophes are either curled, or slightly slanted. They are commonly confused with prime marks, the symbols which are used to denote feet and inches, hours or minutes.

wrong quote marks

I’ve also seen quotation marks incorrectly used when describing the height of a character. It is correct to use prime symbols for height as they denote  feet and inches.

wrong quote marks

The key to avoiding the wrong quote marks is to know the difference and to know how the mistakes creep in. What is really frustrating is keyboards only show prime symbols. I can already hear you wondering, in that case, how the hell you’ve ever used the curly ones. Most word processing software will convert a prime symbol into a quote mark or apostrophe appropriately. And that stops us using the wrong quote marks most of the time. But you will have to undo this auto correct if what you actually needed was a prime symbol to denote feet and inches.

Where things really go wrong is for those of us who use various mobile devices or web text editors. Many of those will only display prime symbols. If you do a lot of writing or editing that introduces the wrong quote marks into your work then there is an easy way to correct it. Using something like Microsoft Word, and the find and replace feature, you can go through your work and search for all the prime symbols and replace them with quote marks. Just be careful to not replace correctly used prime marks where, for instance, you’ve described the height of a character.

wrong quote marks

One last thing to point out is that many websites will incorrectly use prime marks as they don’t have the automatic functionality to correct them like a word processor. However, if you are keen to have the correct typography on your website or blog then there are various plugins that are available. I use the TinyMCE Advanced plugin. It comes with a whole host of other features that upgrade the functionality of the visual editor.

If you’ve experienced these issues and need help, just drop a comment below and I’ll be happy to help. Or have you found your own solution to deal with this that you can share?

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Sam Hunter
Editor
Founder of UrbanFiction.org and supporter of all urban fiction authors. Author of the Makaveli’s Prince books. His first novel, Book One, was described by Street Literature as a “true tribute to hip-hop” and weaves a thrilling ride through some of hip-hop’s darkest secrets. You won’t be able to put his books down. They're packed with conspiracy, drama and often centered on strong female characters. You’re in for a ride.

All his books are on Amazon Kindle and Google Play Books.