MacMost Now 873: Understanding Smart Quotes

When you type a quote or apostrophe symbol on your Mac, it will usually automatically convert to the curly version. However, you can control when this happens on a per-app basis. You can also make exceptions to the process while typing. See examples in TextEdit, Pages and Mail.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 873: Understanding Smart Quotes.

Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's take a look at Smart Quotes.

Here I am in TextEdit. Watch what happens when I type something that has quotes around it. Notice how the straight quotes became curly quotes. All I did was type the quote symbol on my keyboard, shift and apostrophe (the apostrophe is right next to the return key) and I got straight up and down quotes as the keyboard shows but they changed instantly to curly quotes. Not only that but they are smart curly quotes because they are facing inside on this one and inside on this one as well. You can see this has happened simply because of the position of a character near the quote.

So for instance if I typed something like this and I put as quote right before the "i" you can see it does the quote that way. If I put is after a letter with a space on the other side it does it this way. So that's all it does to figure out which way to curl the quotes.

Now almost every app that uses this has this as a preference somewhere. If we go into TextEdit and look under Preferences we can see under New Document/Preferences whether or not to use Smart Quotes. I can turn that off. Now it's not going to effect this document but if I were to create a new document and then type something, let me make the font larger, you can see I get straight up and down quotes now in this document in TextEdit.

To change the preference in an existing document all you need to do is go to Edit/Substitutions and you can see Smart Quotes turned off for this one. If I switch to this one here and Substitutions Smart Quotes on. So I can turn it on and off after I am already using a document.

Of course in addition to the regular quotes you have the single quote which is used as an apostrophe like that. With it turned off I get it straight up and down like that.

One of the reasons that you may have it turned off so they are straight quotes is if you are a coder like me and you are always writing examples of code say in articles and books that you write and you don't want to use curly quotes because that is not actually what is used in code. It will generate errors. So you want to use straight up and down quotes even when you are just writing about it so there is no confusion for the reader.

Another reason you may want to use straight up and down quotes is simply that you like them better.

So in Pages you also have the same thing but the Preference appears in a different place. You go to Pages/Preferences under Auto-Correction it will appear here Use Smart Quotes. So if I turn that off here right in the middle of a document. Now if I have it turned on I can easily have a straight quote on a case by case basis like this and say I want this to be a straight quote for some reason it will turn it into a curly quote but if I hit Command Z right away it will undo the last action which was to automatically change it to substitute a curly one. So I can get away with that single time that I have a straight quote.

Now you can also go the other way. If I have Smart Quote turned off I can get a curly quote by typing it manually and this is what people had to do before there was Smart Quotes especially if you are in publishing. Use the Option key and the left square bracket on the keyboard, it is just to the right of the P key, and you can get a curly quote. Do Shift/Option and you get it going the other direction.

By the way the right bracket/Option is a single quote in that direction and then Shift/Option gives you the other one.

So you can manually insert these and use the quotes as you want.

Now another place you might want to use Smart Quotes is in Mail when composing a message. But you can see I don't have it. It is just a regular straight quote there unless you go down into Edit/Substitutions and turn on Smart Quotes there. So it is not in the Mail/Preferences in this case but under the Edit menu.

You also have some more control over Smart Quotes by going to System Preferences. Now this will only effect certain applications but if you go to Language & Text and then you go to Text here you can see there is a setting for Smart Quotes for both the single and double there. You can not only set it up to do the regular Smart Quotes which is the top one, but you can set it up for various other types of quotations.

So let's set it here and now if I switch over to Mail and I type the quote, you can see I get those instead. You can also go down to the last type of Smart Quote which is to not use Smart Quote. So I kind of turn it off, not quite systemwide cause other applications have their own setting, but at least in some applications like Mail and TextEdit it will obey the system preference for Smart Quotes.

So where you find the settings for Smart Quotes depends upon the app. Sometimes you find them in Preferences for the app but the area in the Preferences can differ from app to app. So you have to look around. Other times it is simply under the Edit menu under Substitutions. There might be some apps that don't even have any settings at all and simply use the systemwide settings.

So there is a look at using or not using Smart Quotes. Even if it is not something you care that much about it is useful just to know a little bit more about how your Mac works.

Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 6 Responses to “MacMost Now 873: Understanding Smart Quotes”

    6 years ago

    All of Gary’s videos are interesting and helpful!

    Howard Kahn
    6 years ago

    Informative video. Is there a way to get the “.” shortcut on OSX like the option in iOS?

      6 years ago

      What do you mean? I can think of a few things that apply to the . key on iOS.

    6 years ago

    Brilliant tip, how did you ever discover this undo technique? Until now I’ve used control+shift+” for straight quotes on mac.
    Appreciate so much.

    Linda Lyn
    6 years ago

    Thank you Gary
    Thank you for I have learn one more thing from you today.

    L. Lyn Aust

    6 years ago

    Another informative video from Gary.

Comments Closed.