"Dumb quotes"

They're smarter than some think (and not likely what you'd expect)

"Dumb quotes"
Are "smart quotes" worth it?

I have a silly pet peeve I'm almost too ashamed to admit: I hate "dumb quotes". That's changing, though, and here's why I think that's a good thing...but before I continue, let me explain what I mean by "dumb quotes".

"Dumb quotes" aren't preposterous quotations (though plenty of those exist). In design, "dumb quotes" are quotation marks that lack proper formatting. Put simply: There is a right way — and a wrong way — to format quotation marks.

Quotation marks formatted correctly should curl or slant, like this:

An example of quotation marks which have been properly formatted

Unfortunately, many text formatting tools (including this platform where I publish these newsletters) do not include support for proper quotation mark formatting.

Here's a set of quotation marks formatted...er..."dumbly"?:

An example of quotation marks without formatting

Do you see the difference?

The first set are clearly defined quotation marks and the second set look like beaver teeth.

From a design perspective, "dumb quotes" matter because they can affect the readability of your text (particularly in print media where scaling options are not available) as well as the overall aesthetic of a design. Failing to format your quotes properly can also signal to more seasoned designers that you might not have much experience with typography...

...or, that you prefer not to spend your most precious resource (i.e. time) painstakingly swapping out all the default beaver teeth for gloriously curly little punctuation marks. (I think you know where I'm going with this.)

Until now, I've been one of those people — a dyed-in-the-wool punctuation replacer — and do you know what? I just don't think it's worth it any longer for most things that live on the web and can be read by a screen reader.

When I sit down to write to you, I want to do so with as little friction as possible standing between transforming the thoughts in my head into words on a page. It's a real "flow" breaker to go back and forth between writing, quotation mark formatting, editing, more quotation mark formatting, polishing, etc., etc., and I don't think that's why you're here in the first place.

So, I'm hanging it up. I'm embracing "dumb quotes" (excepting subjects which require them). Moreover, I'm going to stop referring to them as "dumb" because I think embracing them might be one of the smartest tweaks I make all year.

Afterthoughts: I'm curious: Prior to reading this, had you ever paid attention to quotation mark formatting? If so, did you ever (or do you still) go out of your way to format quotation marks?

What is your own version of "dumb quotes"...something you do now that you might be better off shedding?