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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Website design question: Curly or straight? How smart are your quotes?

   
Author Topic: Website design question: Curly or straight? How smart are your quotes?
Chris Bridges
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Currently all of the quotation marks on our website are the straight ones, like on most other sites. But I'm considering adding the coding to begin using curly or "smart" quotation marks instead, as I think in many cases it makes the text easier to read. What do you think?

(Note that first I need to make sure that using this code won't screw up any database or XML coding we're already using, as programmers have entirely different notions of what quotes mean.)

[ October 27, 2010, 10:38 AM: Message edited by: Chris Bridges ]

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mr_porteiro_head
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I don't recall ever being glad for curly quotes, but there have been many times that they've been a pain for me (although all the times that I can recall, I was editing, not reading).
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Chris Bridges
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The pros: For many people curly quotes make text easier to read. They look more professional. And they tend to add a more elegant look, I think.

The cons: They have to be specially coded. They don't copy and paste well in many applications. Done wrong, they may interfere with database functions and/or XML applications such as RSS feeds.

As Shmuel just put it in an IM, "Basically, if everything goes right, smart quotes are nicer, but using them makes it much easier for things to go wrong. Straight quotes are more boring, but less problematic."

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mr_porteiro_head
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As a general rule, I prefer boring and less problematic.
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Chris Bridges
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May not matter. I changed one of our stories to use them and with the font we use, you can barely tell the difference. So, probably not worth the trouble.

Ah, well.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
The pros: For many people curly quotes make text easier to read.
How many and how much easier? Given that there are roughly a billion English speakers in the world, there could be millions and it could still be a tiny fraction of the English reading population. I suspect that it makes very little difference for the overwhelming majority of readers.

quote:
They look more professional. And they tend to add a more elegant look, I think.
I looked at the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC News, and LA Times online and only the New Your Times uses curly quotes. Given that a many of the top profession news organization are using straight quotes for their online publications, its a bit dubious to claim curly quotes are "more professional". They may be more elegant, but elegance is a very subjective issue and most of the time, it runs counter to readability.

I guess the real question is , how much trouble are you willing to go to for what amounts to a minor aesthetic difference that most people won't even notice unless it causes trouble?

[ October 27, 2010, 12:11 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Given that a many of the top profession news organization are using straight quotes for their online publications, its a bit dubious to claim curly quotes are "more professional".

In print publishing, curly quotes are absolutely more professional. Straight quotes almost never appear in print except in amateur work.

And anyway, is it really that problematic or difficult to implement? My WordPress-powered blog does smart quotes automatically, and I don't think I've ever had problems with it.

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maui babe
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The problem comes when you don't want to use smart quotes... like when you're using " for foot and ' for inches... then you have to remember how to turn off the smart quotes.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Jon Boy:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Given that a many of the top profession news organization are using straight quotes for their online publications, its a bit dubious to claim curly quotes are "more professional".

In print publishing, curly quotes are absolutely more professional. Straight quotes almost never appear in print except in amateur work.

Yes, but we aren't talking about print, we are talking online publications. A simple perusal of major professional websites is enough to show that the standards are different for the different media.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
And anyway, is it really that problematic or difficult to implement? My WordPress-powered blog does smart quotes automatically, and I don't think I've ever had problems with it.
I think the simplest answer to that question is "Problematic enough that many major professional sites have chosen not to use them."

In my limited experience, the problems arise primarily when you are trying to import/export the text for different uses.

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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Yes, but we aren't talking about print, we are talking online publications. A simple perusal of major professional websites is enough to show that the standards are different for the different media.

Yes, I know that we're talking about online publications. But the more time goes on, the more online publications start to look like print publications. People are starting to apply the same notions of professional typography to websites. It might only be the beginning of the trend, but it's still a trend.
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TomDavidson
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Curly quotes are ridiculous and should never be used.
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Tstorm
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I have to come down on the side of the developers, on this one. I dislike curly quotes.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Jon Boy:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Yes, but we aren't talking about print, we are talking online publications. A simple perusal of major professional websites is enough to show that the standards are different for the different media.

Yes, I know that we're talking about online publications. But the more time goes on, the more online publications start to look like print publications. People are starting to apply the same notions of professional typography to websites. It might only be the beginning of the trend, but it's still a trend.
Which means its a good time to ask the question of whether or not a given typographical notion is appropriate for online publication. Electronic text is used in many ways that printed text is not. It's routinely searched, transferred to databases, copied, and reformatted (to list only a few). Print text is intended to be read by human eyes, electronic publications are also read by software programs.

If there really is a trend toward using print publication standards for electronic publications, it's high time to determine whether those standards make any sense for electronic media. If curly quotes really significantly improve readability for most human readers, then maybe its worth the effort to develop software that's compatible. But If it is really just an an issue of fashion that offers no real utility, it's time to slam on the breaks.

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Chris Bridges
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As I said above, our font makes the difference between the two choices nearly invisible so I won't be bothering.

I've found that when reading e-books -- which is most of what I read -- I do prefer a well-formatted book with curly quotes. But on the website it looks like too much hassle for not enough return.

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