Saturday, May 14, 2022

To Smart Quote or Not to Smart Quote (also known as 'Curly' quotes)


On a computer, you typically use 'straight quotes', whilst in (real) books you mostly find 'curly quotes'.

In both Google Docs and Word you can let the word processor (is anyone still old enough to recognize that word?) handle it.


(Depending on the version of Word it may be located in a different place.)

1. File / Options / Proofing / AutoCorrect Options

Here you'll find this feature in two different places:

2. Tab AutoFormat As You Type, look for Smart Quotes, and

3. Tab AutoFormat, look for Smart Quotes

Google Docs

1. Tools / Preferences / Use Smart Quotes

Change regular Quotes to Curly Quotes, and vice verse

Now you may already have a document written, but straight and curly quotes are all messed up. There's an easy way to fix it, but (unfortunately) it requires Word.

1. When your original document is in Google Docs, first 'download' the document as .docx (File / Download / .docx)

2. Load your text (the .docx file) in Word

3. File / Options / Proofing / AutoCorrect Options

4. Switch Smart Quotes to either ON or OFF, depending on what you want to do

5. Close the Word Options window

5. On the Ribbon, go to Home, and on the right side you'll find Replace

6. Now enter " in the Find what box

7. Also enter " in the Replace with box

8. Replace All

9. Do the same for '

Suggestion: stick to straight quotes

Unless your editor tells you otherwise, I'd suggest to stick to straight quotes until the final stage. (On the image below: top line is straight, bottom line is curly.)

Hyphens to Em-dash / En-dash

Now you would expect to be able to do the same thing to convert double dash (hyphens) to em-dash, but no such luck. At least, not as smart / easy.

In practice, the dash (or hyphen) is the shortest, the En-dash a bit longer, and the Em-dash the longest. (Did you know that not all languages use Em-dash?)

First of all, consider how they look...


Now both Word and Google Docs treat two hyphens as an Em-dash, which some would say should be an 'En-dash'. In fiction and novels, it won't matter too much, and I've seen novels in print that use the En-dash, and others that use the Em-dash.

So, pick the variant you like 😎

Suggestion: stick to double hyphens

What I would like to suggest is to use the double-hyphen -- and either leave it up to your editor / publisher to change it, or (if you're self-publishing) only change it just before publishing.

Replacing double hyphens with Em-dash

But... if you reach that self-publishing stage, use the following procedure:

1. When in Google Docs, save to a Word document

2. Load your text (the .docx file) in Word

3. On the Ribbon, go to Home, and on the right side you'll find Replace

4. Now enter -- in the Find what box

5. Enter ^+ in the Replace with box

6. Replace All

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