Most readers never notice, at least not consciously. The subconscious mind, however, is a powerful thing.
Pull up any article from the Washington Post or the New York Times. Grab any book from your bookshelf.
You will never find a straight quote:
‘ or “
You will always find curly quotes.
‘ or “
The vertical quotes that you find on your keyboard were never created for publishing.They were created as a shortcut for typewriters and are also referred to as ‘primes’. They are used in numerical measurements to indicate inches and feet.
5’7 or 4″ would be the correct use of the straight version.
‘Primes’ or “primes” would not.
‘Primes’ is correct. So correct, that I had to manipulate Medium to even type it incorrectly, above. Medium automatically corrects to curly, as any reputable publisher would.
You must be careful, however, if you are using copy and paste for any reason, or you might be adding straight quotes to your work — by accident.
In professional print and typography, vertical quotes are referred to as ‘dumb quotes’ or ‘straight quotes’. They are a hallmark of sloppy work, especially when mixed with ‘curly’ or ‘smart’ quotation marks.
One of the most interesting things about the curly quotes is that their purpose and their story are not well known. It appears to be a secret among the ones in the know — that the ones who don’t know don’t notice.
When I began my online journey of writing, branding, and social media — I learned about curly and straight quotes. (and apostrophes)
My then boss, also my mentor, was ‘in the know’. She explained to me the history of the curly quotation from day one. She also explained why it was so important. It was so important, in fact, that putting out a design or an article with the incorrect apostrophe was a great violation of brand quality. The only thing worse than publishing a straight quote was publishing something with a mixture of straight and curly. Oh, heaven forbid!
Curly quotations are preferred in formal writing, but it is customary and appropriate to use the straight version in emails and text messages.
Many up and coming writers, designers and social media influencers do not know about the curly quotation and typographers around the world cringe. Meanwhile, no-one is telling anyone it is a thing.
If you are a writer who wasn’t aware of the importance of these curly little guys, now you know. They matter. You never know who will see your work. Depending on the level of professionalism they are seeking, those ‘dumb’ quotes might be what stops them from looking further.