View Full Version : What's with all the straight quotes (inch marks)?


DGReader
02-24-2010, 07:54 PM
Hi. I'm sorry if this has already been covered, but I've been searching the site for the last 20 minutes and haven't found anything written about the subject of curly quotes, a.k.a. typographer's quotes, a.k.a. quotation marks (as opposed to "inch marks" which is what "straight quotes" really are).

Okay, I know that for some people this is nitpicking. But I've been seeing a lot of ePubs out there without good typography. To me it makes a big difference when I see proper slanted or curly quotation marks (‘ ’) and (“ ”) instead of straight inch marks (' ') or foot marks (" ") around quotations.

Isn't ePub basically XML with CSS? If so, then its native character set should be Unicode. Unicode character sets allow for the native inclusion of extra characters such as true ellipses (…) rather that three periods in a row (...), letters with accents in them (résumé instead of resume), etc. There shouldn't even be the necessity to "escape" characters as there is with some flavors of HTML. It shouldn't be hard, then, to write a book for the ePub format with good typography.

If I wanted to take a published, non–DRM-protected ePub file and reformat it to make all the inch marks and foot marks become double quotes and single quotes, how would I do that? I am flummoxed by Calibre. I downloaded it for my Mac and I don't even know where to begin. It reminds of of GraphicConverter with all its endless functions. I looked to see if there were a way to replace straight quotes with curly quotes, and I couldn't find a straightforward one. Is there one?

P.S. Yes, I know that search-and-replace doesn't always work with inch and foot marks, because sometimes a foot mark is a single open quote and sometimes it should be a single close quote or apostrophe.

P.S.S. This may be <em>really</em> picky, but is it possible to design an ePub to have ligatures such as fi ( fi ), ff ( ff ) ffi ( ffi ), etc.?

kennyc
02-24-2010, 08:36 PM
Welcome to MR......I guess I'm more into reading than looks. :)

charleski
02-24-2010, 08:43 PM
It largely depends on how professional the person doing the conversion is. Most ebooks should be using typographic quotes these days, but there are still a few lazy publishers who don't check that the work's done properly.

An ePub can use any character you want, as long as the font has the right glyph to display it. Since you can embed your own fonts, it's perfectly possible to use ligatures as long as the type is set correctly.

Converting the quotation marks yourself is not easy. There's some discussion about it here (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=46980&page=2) and here (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9487) I think if you search in the Workshop forum you'll find a few other threads, but can't locate them right now. The bottom line, though, is that you'd need to tear it down, edit, and then reconstruct the epub, since there aren't any simple conversion tools that I know of.

DGReader
02-24-2010, 10:52 PM
Thanks so much for those links. I wonder why they didn't turn up in my searches.

cmdahler
02-24-2010, 10:59 PM
Okay, I know that for some people this is nitpicking. But I've been seeing a lot of ePubs out there without good typography. To me it makes a big difference when I see proper slanted or curly quotation marks (‘ ’) and (“ ”) instead of straight inch marks (' ') or foot marks (" ") around quotations.

I completely agree. This is like fingernails on a blackboard to me whenever I try to read an ePub that was formatted without typographer's quotes. It just screams "This epub was made by a bloke in his mom's basement with Microsoft Word."

P.S.S. This may be <em>really</em> picky, but is it possible to design an ePub to have ligatures such as fi ( fi ), ff ( ff ) ffi ( ffi ), etc.?

So far as I know, the answer is no. That's not because of the design of the particular file, it's because the epub renderers are not up to such professional-level typography. It'll probably get that way someday, but for now if you want to take your reading to the level of quality that includes things like ligatures, font alternates in professional-level fonts, optical margins, etc., you'll have to stick with PDFs.

nomesque
02-24-2010, 11:22 PM
Interestingly, I've been deliberately using straight quote marks and the minus sign in my ebooks. Reason? I knew the .epub format could cope with better typography, but I wasn't 100% sure that all ebook readers would be able to. And I find "s much less annoying than stray ?s. I'm fine with admitting that there's a possibility I'm stuck in the 20th century... :D

ATimson
02-25-2010, 12:29 AM
It just screams "This epub was made by a bloke in his mom's basement with Microsoft Word."
In that case, it would have the typographical quotes even when you wanted non-typographical ones. :p

nomesque
02-25-2010, 12:56 AM
In that case, it would have the typographical quotes even when you wanted non-typographical ones. :p

YES! :rofl:

Non-typographical quotes says it's been written by a bloke in his Mum's basement with Notepad... :D

FizzyWater
02-25-2010, 01:09 AM
In that case, it would have the typographical quotes even when you wanted non-typographical ones. :p

And in the wrong direction half the time, too. It's why I tend to convert to straight quotes, rather than deal with backwards curly ones.

delphidb96
02-25-2010, 02:04 AM
Hi. I'm sorry if this has already been covered, but I've been searching the site for the last 20 minutes and haven't found anything written about the subject of curly quotes, a.k.a. typographer's quotes, a.k.a. quotation marks (as opposed to "inch marks" which is what "straight quotes" really are).

Okay, I know that for some people this is nitpicking. But I've been seeing a lot of ePubs out there without good typography. To me it makes a big difference when I see proper slanted or curly quotation marks (‘ ’) and (“ ”) instead of straight inch marks (' ') or foot marks (" ") around quotations.

Isn't ePub basically XML with CSS? If so, then its native character set should be Unicode. Unicode character sets allow for the native inclusion of extra characters such as true ellipses (…) rather that three periods in a row (...), letters with accents in them (résumé instead of resume), etc. There shouldn't even be the necessity to "escape" characters as there is with some flavors of HTML. It shouldn't be hard, then, to write a book for the ePub format with good typography.

If I wanted to take a published, non–DRM-protected ePub file and reformat it to make all the inch marks and foot marks become double quotes and single quotes, how would I do that? I am flummoxed by Calibre. I downloaded it for my Mac and I don't even know where to begin. It reminds of of GraphicConverter with all its endless functions. I looked to see if there were a way to replace straight quotes with curly quotes, and I couldn't find a straightforward one. Is there one?

P.S. Yes, I know that search-and-replace doesn't always work with inch and foot marks, because sometimes a foot mark is a single open quote and sometimes it should be a single close quote or apostrophe.

P.S.S. This may be <em>really</em> picky, but is it possible to design an ePub to have ligatures such as fi ( fi ), ff ( ff ) ffi ( ffi ), etc.?

Ummm... I *prefer* (") and (') marks. And I was always taught that (') stood for foot/feet and (") stood for inch/inches, yes???

Derek

kennyc
02-25-2010, 05:23 AM
In that case, it would have the typographical quotes even when you wanted non-typographical ones. :p


So True! I constantly fight with Word! (and avoid it whenever possible). :angry:

WillAdams
02-25-2010, 08:01 AM
Absolutely incorrect terminology and (mis)usage of characters.

Straight / uni-directional single (apostrophe ') and double quote (") marks are a convention from typewriters where the limited character set forced the directional marks (‘’ and “”) into a single duplexed key --- they have since found usage in computer code as a way to indicate strings and various other conventions:

print "Hello World"

Primes and double primes which are used in mathematics to indicate various things and to indicate feet and inches (5′ 2″), or degrees and seconds of degrees are separate characters (which unfortunately don't appear in many fonts --- Hypatia Sans Pro and Arno Pro are two which come to mind).

Please, use the proper character in the proper context.

William

Jellby
02-25-2010, 08:58 AM
I go through a sometimes painful process of replacing straight quotes with the correct curly quotes, and marking apostrophes differently from right single quotes (though they render the same), for every book I create. It's not as easy as it might seem at first, especially when there are other issues in the source text, like missing spaces; things like "I heard 'em comin'" are more frequent than one could think.

For ellipses, I choose not to use the single character because: 1) in English I believe it's "better" to use a series of periods separated with non-breaking spaces, and 2) in other languages ellipses should actually look like three periods in a row, so I think it's better to code them like that as well.

Ligatures are a typesetting fancy which should be done by the rendering program, and not coded in the source, like kerning and paragraph breaking. Besides, ligatures whould mess text-search.

pdurrant
02-25-2010, 10:48 AM
Ummm... I *prefer* (") and (') marks. And I was always taught that (') stood for foot/feet and (") stood for inch/inches, yes???

' and " are marks from the age of typewriters (and plain ASCII) and are used both for quotation marks, and for foot and inch marks. They're called the apostrophe and the quotation mark.

But properly, quotation marks are like this: ‘ ’ and “ ”, and the marks for feet and inches are like this: ′ and ″ (prime and double prime).

Not all fonts have the unicode prime and double prime, in which case the apostrophe and quotation mark should be used. But IMO they look better in that role when italicised. In most fonts that have the prime and double prime characters, the glyph slants from bottom left to top right. Although this is not true for all fonts – it’s up to the font’s designer. Some fonts have primes that are straight up & down, and indistinguisable from the ASCII apostrophe and quotation marks (e.g. Arial).

delphidb96
02-25-2010, 01:28 PM
' and " are marks from the age of typewriters (and plain ASCII) and are used both for quotation marks, and for foot and inch marks. They're called the apostrophe and the quotation mark.

But properly, quotation marks are like this: ‘ ’ and “ ”, and the marks for feet and inches are like this: ′ and ″ (prime and double prime).

Which is what I thought! I wondered because the person I was replying to stated (") as feet and (') as inches.

Derek

DaleDe
02-25-2010, 04:59 PM
Which is what I thought! I wondered because the person I was replying to stated (") as feet and (') as inches.

Derek

yea and I have seen people reverse the " seconds and ' minutes as well.

Dale

GlennD
02-25-2010, 07:06 PM
Way back when I was reading on a Palm III, the reader I was using choked on curly quotes and other formatting characters. I made it a practice when I was converting books to a readable (for me) format to always change them to a ". It was the opposite of laziness - it actually took an extra step to do (not that find/replace is terribly difficult).

TBH, it doesn't make any difference to me which direction a quotation mark is facing. I know I'm "wrong" from a strict formatting perspective, but it doesn't make an ebook the slightest bit less readable to me. I tend to prefer books to be in the lowest common denominator - plain text, so that I'm able to easily convert them to the several formats in use at my house. Horrifying, I know, to the formatting purists..... :)

DGReader
02-25-2010, 09:06 PM
Absolutely incorrect terminology and (mis)usage of characters.

Straight / uni-directional single (apostrophe ') and double quote (") marks are a convention from typewriters where the limited character set forced the directional marks (‘’ and “”) into a single duplexed key --- they have since found usage in computer code as a way to indicate strings and various other conventions:

print "Hello World"

Primes and double primes which are used in mathematics to indicate various things and to indicate feet and inches (5′ 2″), or degrees and seconds of degrees are separate characters (which unfortunately don't appear in many fonts --- Hypatia Sans Pro and Arno Pro are two which come to mind).

Please, use the proper character in the proper context.

William

I stand corrected, thank you. I knew that straight quotes are used in computer languages because I used to hand-code HTML, but the way I learned typography, straight single and double quotes were called "foot marks" and "inch marks." I was taught that it looked just as bad to use curly single and double quotes for notating height (as in your example 5’ 2” in the serif font I'm using) as it looked to use straight single and double quotes for apostrophes, quotations-within-quotations and quotation. But you have taught me something new, and it makes sense. Now I know to notate height thus: 5ʹ 2ʺ.

Forgive me for doubting you, but I searched the Internet to find corroboration for what you said, and I found this helpful web page about common typographical errors (http://www.recedinghairline.co.uk/files/c1c3be2fda2b218e858029a4bde7e96c-397.html). (Although I still don't see the difference between 98.6º and 98.6°. Well, okay, maybe the latter "correct" one looks smaller. Anyway…)

cmdahler
02-26-2010, 12:11 AM
(Although I still don't see the difference between 98.6º and 98.6°. Well, okay, maybe the latter "correct" one looks smaller. Anyway…)

For whatever it's worth, the degree symbol as shown in your example above is a circle, whereas the O ordinal is more oval in shape. Hard to tell in small point sizes, but in larger sizes:

98.6º and 98.6°

the difference becomes more obvious. The degree symbol should always be a circle, not an oval.

These typographical niceties may sound trivial and totally anal to many (as in, "get a life, dude, and just read the damn book"), but it's all the little trivial things like these that add up to the difference between a professional-looking document and one that is just flogged up on Word. Professionally typeset documents just beg to be read. You've got to really want to read something that looks like unedited OCRd text.

frabjous
02-26-2010, 12:28 AM
At first, I didn't know what you all were talking about, thinking to myself -- how could anyone not see the difference between those two superscripts? And the difference isn't shape. But then I remembered that thanks to My custom Mobileread stylesheet (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?p=659342#post659342) for the Stylish plugin for Firefox, I see MobileRead in a different font from everyone else. In the font I'm using, the difference couldn't be clearer. He's my screen cap of cm's latest post:

http://people.umass.edu/phil592w-klement/degree.png

So obviously this is very font-dependent.

The difference is also very noticeable in the IMPACT font:


98.6º and 98.6°

omk3
02-26-2010, 06:34 AM
These typographical niceties may sound trivial and totally anal to many (as in, "get a life, dude, and just read the damn book"), but it's all the little trivial things like these that add up to the difference between a professional-looking document and one that is just flogged up on Word. Professionally typeset documents just beg to be read. You've got to really want to read something that looks like unedited OCRd text.

I generally can read anything if it is well written enough, and not really think about any of this. Most people don't even realize what kind of quotes there are in the text - but you are right: everyone does realize that a book looks "nicer" and more professional, hence more inviting, when all these little details have been taken care of. And I find it encouraging that there are people who care enough about these things to make an issue of them. In the meantime, the world of commercial ebooks has much more basic problems to deal with than curly quotes: wrong encoding, ocr errors, forgotten headers and page numbers in the middle of the text, typos, you name it. The way things are now, I am happy just to find an ebook without any obvious errors in it - but I look forward to the time when curly quotes and ligatures will be the only things I have to complain about :)

DGReader
02-26-2010, 08:29 AM
frabjous, I love the Century Gothic font. I set up my Safari preferences for this font, but I rarely see Web pages that are coded without font faces, so I rarely get to see it on the Web. But maybe I should consider adding my own style sheet. I used to have one merely to suppress hyperlink underlining, but maybe I should revise it to force my preferred font.

P.S. You are so right about how different the 0 ordinal and the degree mark look in Impact. Thanks for demonstrating that. Now I really get it. Luckily, special characters are easy to key on my Mac. All I have to do is Alt+Shift+8 instead of Alt+0.

DGReader
02-26-2010, 08:40 AM
To me it makes a big difference when I see proper slanted or curly quotation marks (‘ ’) and (“ ”) instead of straight inch marks (' ') or foot marks (" ") around quotations.

~and~

I wondered because the person I was replying to stated (") as feet and (') as inches.

Ugh. I meant to say foot marks (' ') and inch marks (" ") but I did so much cutting and pasting in my post that I mixed them up. I do know what's right, but my editing defeated my purpose. Sorry.

cmdahler
02-26-2010, 09:03 AM
I generally can read anything if it is well written enough, and not really think about any of this. Most people don't even realize what kind of quotes there are in the text - but you are right: everyone does realize that a book looks "nicer" and more professional, hence more inviting, when all these little details have been taken care of.

Yep, that's it in a nutshell. Professional typography is unnoticeable in the details, but makes the overall document look so nice that it draws your eye to the next and makes you just want to start reading. Epub has a long way to go to achieve that goal, since to those of us who enjoy the look and feel of a well-typeset book, reading epub is so annoying it ruins the experience.

There is a book that one of our MR members spent a lot of time to put together, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. You can find it in the uploads. It is just about the best that can be done with epub at the moment, and it is certainly well done and more than acceptable to most people reading on an ereader. I found it amusing how many of the people who get on threads like this and say things like "just read the book," or "you need to go back to print, dude," as if good typography doesn't matter in the least to them, were the same people gushing over how good the epub version of Three Men in a Boat looks, what a nice job Zelda did in putting it together so well, etc., so good typography does indeed matter to even the silly people here who try so hard to insist that it doesn't.

Jellby
02-26-2010, 09:41 AM
P.S. You are so right about how different the 0 ordinal and the degree mark look in Impact. Thanks for demonstrating that. Now I really get it. Luckily, special characters are easy to key on my Mac. All I have to do is Alt+Shift+8 instead of Alt+0.

Note it's not a "0" (zero), but an "o" (oh) in superscript. There's also ª in my keyboard, which is the feminine form (in Spanish) of º, both are underlined or not, depending on the font. The degree symbol ° is a circle with no underline.

charleski
02-26-2010, 01:08 PM
Those who want to convert to typographic quotes might be interested in this (http://daringfireball.net/projects/smartypants/) little program from John Gruber. It's basically a perl script that will act as a plugin for BBEdit, Movable Type and Blosxom and will convert straight quotes to proper ones.

Sparrow
02-26-2010, 01:19 PM
So True! I constantly fight with Word! (and avoid it whenever possible). :angry:

Word is the easiest app I know for changing straight quotes (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word/HP051901241033.aspx) to curly quotes.

When I subsequently do a proof reading, I've not encountered any issues with the quotes (so far).

Steven Lyle Jordan
02-27-2010, 11:02 AM
Presently I take my documents from Word, with smartquotes, paste it into Dreamweaver to have it convert smartquotes to proper HTML code ("&ldquo;" and "&rdquo;"), then open that HTML doc in Sigil to create my ePub. This process preserves the curlyquotes in a format that is readable on any properly ePub-compliant reading device or software. It also works for any other characters for which there is a proper HTML coding (M-dashes, for instance). These ePubs test as ePub-compliant, which is what all e-book producers should be shooting for.

I realize there are some reading devices and software that have problems with these characters. But most of these devices or software are not ePub-compliant, and I refuse to create e-book formats to cater to non-compliant devices and software... if we book producers did that, and readers accepted it, there would be no incentive to make all reading devices and software properly compliant.

JSWolf
03-01-2010, 09:30 AM
Those who want to convert to typographic quotes might be interested in this (http://daringfireball.net/projects/smartypants/) little program from John Gruber. It's basically a perl script that will act as a plugin for BBEdit, Movable Type and Blosxom and will convert straight quotes to proper ones.

But can it tell when the quotes need to be straight for the HTML code?

frabjous
03-01-2010, 11:44 AM
But can it tell when the quotes need to be straight for the HTML code?

How does a Word Processor with "autocorrect quotes to smart quotes" know which smart quote to insert as you type? It uses context. Is it after a space or at end of a word? What other punctuation is around? I started earlier in the thread what I think rules are, roughly. I don't know how closely this script would be to the rules I stated, and would definitely welcome additions and corrections to the list...

Of course, that does mean that it will occasionally make a mistake, and ought to be checked over.

EDIT: Gaa... realized you were asking a different question, but the poster below has answered it.

KNotTed
03-01-2010, 12:01 PM
But can it tell when the quotes need to be straight for the HTML code?

It appears from reading the site that it at least partially parses the HTML, so it should leave tag attributes alone.

WillAdams
03-01-2010, 12:11 PM
It's impossible to have a script correctly convert uni-directional quotes to directional ones --- it'll never know when to insert apostrophes 'struth, nor will it know when to insert primes &c. --- that's why TEI has explicit markup for beginning and ending quotes, so that nested quotes can be properly handled.

William

Elfwreck
03-01-2010, 02:19 PM
When I read .pdb on a Clie, I replaced curly quotes with straight quotes; the curly ones were distracting on a 320 pixel screen. I'm also used to reading a lot of blog/journal entries online, which has almost entirely straight quotes, and fanfic, which should have mostly straight quotes, both because screen resolution can make curly quotes distracting, and some browsers don't display them right and they show up as little question marks instead of quotes. (I gather this is some kind of weird IE compatibility issue. Don't care; am much happier with straight quotes in browser-viewed text.)

I'm just getting to like curly quotes in ebooks, rather than seeing them as a distraction. I use Word, and its autoconvert features, which then need touchup for the exceptions ('Tis '70s 'em —"whatever).

frabjous
03-01-2010, 03:00 PM
However http://en.allexperts.com/e/l/li/ligature_(typography).htm
agrees with the definition in wikipedia.

Was that meant to be a response to me? I wasn't taking sides on the issue.

... and some browsers don't display them right and they show up as little question marks instead of quotes. (I gather this is some kind of weird IE compatibility issue. Don't care; am much happier with straight quotes in browser-viewed text.)...

As much as it would make me happy to blame all the world's ills on IE, this is probably a result of the pages being served with the wrong character encoding. The fault is really on the end of whoever made the website, or their webserver, but you can override it in your browser's settings. I can't remember exactly where in the menus this is for IE. (In Firefox, go to View > Character Encoding...) Trying playing around with the choices: Western (ISO 8859-1) and Unicode (UTF-8) are good things to try.

I always prefer curly quotes. In fact, there are certain fonts I avoid, even ones I really like otherwise (Palatino, KP Fonts), because the supposedly curly quotes aren't curly enough and easy to distinguish. But perhaps this is because I spend more time reading print books (or scans thereof) than material online, and it's easy to get distracted by what you're not used to.

Elfwreck
03-01-2010, 05:12 PM
I always prefer curly quotes. In fact, there are certain fonts I avoid, even ones I really like otherwise (Palatino, KP Fonts), because the supposedly curly quotes aren't curly enough and easy to distinguish. But perhaps this is because I spend more time reading print books (or scans thereof) than material online, and it's easy to get distracted by what you're not used to.

This, I think, is a big part of the issue.

Curly quotes are definitely easier to read & understand in print, and things like e-ink that mimic print closely. They're not easier for everyone on a small screen; in a 320x320 PDA screen, curly quotes are twice as wide as straight quotes, and that's *valuable screen real estate* I don't want wasted on punctuation.

Then I got used to flat quotes. I knew the coding issue online had workarounds, but it was a rare problem, because most upload programs didn't acknowledge curly quotes unless the author specifically coded them in. (Today, there are a lot more wysiwyg interfaces, and I see curly quotes on text that was formatted in word and then pasted into a web box.)

I like curly quotes in ebooks--but I'd almost rather a whole book of straight quotes, than more than a couple of instances of curly quotes going the wrong direction. And if I'm not going to take the time to edit carefully, I'll generally leave them as straight when I convert for offline reading.

DGReader
03-03-2010, 02:48 PM
Nowadays I use tools that do the HTML and CSS for me, such as my WordPress-powered blog, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, etc. But when I hand-code, I first write what I want to say in BBEdit selecting "Use Typographer's Quotes" in the document editing preferences. Then I would uncheck that, select blocks of text, and turn them into headings, paragraphs, block quotes, etc. I would assume I could do the same if I wanted to hand-code (or partially hand-code) a book destined for ePub format, couldn't I? Or I could strip the text out of an ePub book, "educate" the quotes, and then drop it into an ePub generator such as Calibre? I'm just guessing since ePub is very new to me.

P.S. I use the UTF-8 Unicode character set and declare it thus when writing HTML, so the curly quotes and all sorts of other typographical things are not a problem to enter directly using my keyboard rather than escape characters and things like &emdash;