Smart Quotes in Word – Why They’re a Problem and What to do About Them

Smart quotes are basically the quotes and apostrophes that you’re used to only with an attractive little curl and blob on the end (hence their other name – ‘curly quotes’). These little guys look pretty cool, but are they really all that smart? If you’re making a nice presentation then probably yes, but for web designers and bloggers the answer is unfortunately a resounding ‘no’.

The problem is you see, that many browsers and web services simply cannot recognize smart quotes, and often instead of getting a curling quote you instead get a black diamond with a question mark (you may have come across these in some web design). It makes a statement yes, but it doesn’t exactly read smoothly. And then at the same time if you are using these not-so-smart quotes in your HTML script to make hyperlinks and other features, then you can expect to find dead links and no images. Something then needs to be done.

Turning off Smart Quotes in Word

The reason many people struggle with smart quotes is that by default Word is set to auto-replace the normal straight quotes as you write them. If you aren’t sure if your smart quotes are on or not – well then they probably are.

This needs to be changed in the settings for which you will need to go to Options. In Word 2010 this is found by clicking the file tab along the top or by simply pressing alt. From here you then need to select Proofing down the left of the window that opens up and then auto correct options. From here the only confusing aspect is that you need to turn the smart quotes off twice – once under ‘autoformat’ and then once again under ‘autoformat as you type’. This seems like a slightly strange decision on Microsoft’s part, but that’s what you need to do.

In Open Office Writer meanwhile and in some older versions of Word you instead need to go to Tools >Auto Correct Options and again just uncheck smart quotes.

Dashes and Other Symbols

Dashes are another problem in auto correct and again if you leave these they can come up as question marks in browsers and they can again confuse HTML. Turning this auto formatting off is the same as it is for smart quotes but you’re looking to uncheck ‘replace hyphens for dashes’.

It’s also worth looking under the auto correct tab (separate to the two auto format tabs) as there may be some more things worth changing. Another one that can give browsers pause for thought is ‘…’ which is often changed for a smaller version. Delete this and you can enjoy normal ‘…’s in future. While you’re here have a think about whether there are any auto corrects you do want which could be useful – perhaps enabling you to type quicker by abbreviating certain common words.

Fixing Old Articles

If you have this problem with some old articles and they’re showing up strangely, then you can remedy this by using the find and replace function in notepad. Simply copy an instance of the curly quote and then paste it into the ‘find what’ box, before typing a regular straight quote into the ‘replace with’ box. If you need to do this across many instances of articles you can use a piece of software such as Dreamweaver. And if that software doesn’t recognize the difference between the two types of fonts then just elect to swap all apostrophes or quotations for a new symbol (say ^) and then replace that afterward with your regular apostrophe or quote.


Jeet is a blogger and often finds many people using curly quotes for online posts. You can contact Jeet via his site


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