Using Smart Quotes

Smart quotes will allow you to type the same double and single quote keys on your keyboard but get different curly quotes in the correct direction in your text. It uses the character before the quote to determine which character to show. You can turn this feature off and on and use Undo to get straight quotes in individual cases.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Using Smart Quotes.

You may have noticed that when you type a quote on your Mac, say in Pages or TextEdit or most other apps, you'll get a different character depending upon when it is you typed the quote. So, for instance, I'm going to hit the Shift and the key just to the left of the return key on the American keyboard that gives me a quote. But a curly quote in one direction and then at the end of this word I'm going to type it again and I get a different character. I get curly quotes in one direction and curly quotes in the other direction surrounding the quote.

Now there's no magic to how this happens. It's not counting them like saying the first one is going to be in this direction and the second one in this direction and then third and fourth, fifth and sixth, etc. It's just looking at the character before you typed the quote. So if it's a space it's going to get the idea that you want to start a quoted section here and if it's a character then it's going to get the idea that you want to end the quoted section there. So that's all that it is doing.

Now you can turn this off. This is called Smart Quotes. You can go to Edit, Substitutions, in most apps, and you can turn On and Off Smart Quotes. Sometimes it's in Preferences as well. Now when I type a quote I'm going to get straight up and down quotes like this. So they look the same no matter where they are. I use these a lot because, as a coder, I have to use straight up and down quotes in my code and when I'm writing about code I want to make sure that the quotes look like they're supposed to look. So I have Smart Quotes turned off. But most people would want them turned on.

If you actually have them turned off and you want to use Smart Quotes you can still type them by using Option and then the left bracket on your keyboard puts a quote in the one direction. Shift, Option, and the left bracket puts the quote in the other direction. That's how you get Smart Quotes even if you have that feature turned off.

Smart Quotes also work for single quotes. So I can type, without the Shift key, that same key to the left of the Return and you can see it puts a single quote in both directions. It works as an apostrophe as well. It will put it in the right direction because the character before is not a space. That's how it knows to put it there. So you can get those single quotes by using the Option and right bracket and Shift, Option and the right bracket as well when you type. So if you have it turned off you can also get those.

Now you have more control over these if you go to the Substitution section, at least in Pages, if you go to show Substitutions. You get this little control here that allows you to turn on and off Smart Quotes, but also select the type of Smart Quotes. You have different types of quotes depending upon the language that you're using. So there's some languages that, for instance, use different characters for quotes. Some that put the opening quote below the baseline. That kind of thing. So you can select what it is you want, the type of Smart Quotes you want, here if you want something different than the usual.

Now I must say that in Pages I found that this control actually doesn't seem to work. But what does work is going to System Preferences and then going to Keyboard and then under Text there's a section here for Use Smart Quotes and Dashes. When you change it here it actually will work. So, for instance, I'll change double quotes to that style. I'm going to use the regular quote key on my keyboard but it changes it to that type of quote. So if you really want those you'll probably have to go and change it inside of System Preferences and not just leave it for that small control inside of Pages.

Let's say you want to type a straight quote. So you have curly quotes turned on. You want to do a straight quote here. All you need to do is Undo immediately after you type the quote. So I'm going to do Command Z, since the last thing I did was type that quote, and it will Undo the conversion to a Smart Quote. I get a straight quote here and it will actually try to convert it again when I type the next quote on the other side. It actually does it in a weird way. It converts the first one and not the second one. But they when I hit a space it converts them both. But Undo's can be used for everything. So I can Undo to the point where both were straight. So that's handy if say I wanted to insert a piece of code really quickly and have straight quotes and didn't want to turn it off and then turn it back on again. I can just use Undo to get the quotes that I actually want.