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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Use a Straight Apostrophe!

I’ve noticed something on my travels back and forth between Nebraska and Kentucky while I’m in the process of moving. It’s a glaring (to me) mistake that some trucking companies should be embarrassed to have on their trailers.

Back in the good ol’ days—Macintosh SEs, Pagemaker 3, and LaserWriter printers with PostScript—one of the first things that budding wannabe typesetters were taught was the special keyboard combinations to create proper “curly” typographer’s quotes and apostrophes. This was one of the best things that one could do to give their work a professional look.

No longer were typists limited to just the 88 characters on their IBM Selectrics. Along with the thousands of fonts that could be used, the number of available characters in a single font could total more than 250!

This isn’t to say that there is no longer a purpose for the regular, straight apostrophes and quote marks (accessed with the key between the semicolon and return keys).

A single tic mark is used to designate feet or minutes of arc. Two tic marks designate inches or seconds of arc. (There are also slanted versions of tic marks for these purposes, known as primes.)

If only typesetters today remembered when to use the right character. Today, most computer applications automatically switch the tic mark to a curly apostrophe.

This might be okay 99% of the time but, if you’re the person who’s painting or cutting the Mylar® letters to designate your truck’s trailer as being 53 feet in length, it’s not okay!

» Posted by AKM at 10:52 PM (ET)
Category: Rant


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