Should I use or " in very formal English writing?

closed as off topic by user2683, JeffSahol, Mehper C. Palavuzlar, FumbleFingers, tchrist Jun 8 '12 at 18:57

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    ^ What he said...also @JAM you should just make that an answer. – NominSim Jun 8 '12 at 18:04
  • There's a difference? I don't have curly quotes on my keyboard (that I know of!). – Mitch Jun 8 '12 at 19:36
  • @Mitch MS Word has a setting to automatically change straight quotes to curly quotes as you type. I think it's on by default. Off the top of my head I don't recall for other word processors. (I've heard rumors that there are non-Microsoft products out there in the wild somewhere.) – Jay Jun 8 '12 at 20:22
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    Also, why is this off-topic? Isn't punctuation totally on topic? – Mitch Jun 8 '12 at 21:56
  • I use straight quotes even in my handwriting. theoatmeal.com/blog/handwriting – Ming-Tang Apr 27 '14 at 6:45

That depends on the medium.

When you publish something on the web it can be difficult to use typographic quotation marks, as they don't exist in all fonts installed on all computers over the world. Using typewriter quotation marks would be the safe bet, as they are part of the basic ASCII set, so any font (except Wingdings) has them.

Otherwise typographic quotation marks are always better looking.

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    Don’t worry about “the Web”. Just use what looks best. If basic Unicode characters – like the ones I’ve used here — don’t work for a few people, they will have an incentive to upgrade. Everyone will thank you. – tchrist Jun 8 '12 at 18:51
  • @tchrist: If only everyone could just demand that the user would upgrade their browser... In reality that is often not the case. – Guffa Jun 8 '12 at 20:07
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    It is completely impractical to the point of stupidity to pretend that we must constrain ourselves to 1960s-style ASCII. The majority of the Web is now Unicode. Are you saying that the majority of the Web is “wrong”? That’s ridiculous. ASCII is so fifty years ago. Give up on it. Curly quotes in Unicode is something that has been around for twenty years now. Twenty years is way way way more than enough time for people to get with the show. Again, the majority of the Web is now Unicode. Deal with it. – tchrist Jun 8 '12 at 20:09
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    @tchrist: I'm sorry, I can't deal with just the majority of the web users, I have to deal with ALL the users. If you are not a professional web developer, I can understand that you can just ignore a segment of the users. I can't. – Guffa Jun 8 '12 at 20:16
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    It is insane to limit yourself to ASCII. Utter bollocks. The tyranny of the manual typewriter has got to end. You will never let it die, which means you are contributing to the problem, not helping it. Only Braille teletype translators have no Unicode: that is a horrific design “decision”, and one that makes negative sense. It’s like poking everybody else’s eyes out for the very very very few who are unseeing. It’s dumb. And yes, I am a professional programmer. – tchrist Jun 8 '12 at 20:18

I have generally been told to just use the " on your keyboard and not worry about it. If it's for print, the desired characters will be inserted at layout. For online, whoever edits or maintains the site will apply any different characters desired.

My experience, as a writer and as editor (or whatever you'd call the person who takes Word docs and publishes them in whatever online form is called for), is that manuscript or copy should be submitted in the plainest fashion possible. Look at submission guidelines and you will usually see a plea for no fancy fonts or typography.

I'm not sure this answers your question. I read it as asking someone writing something to be submitted to someone else for publication.

  • My publisher requires proper curly quotes. They’re trivial to enter from a Mac keyboard. – tchrist Jun 8 '12 at 18:56

Definitely use curly quotation marks if you can. If you can't, no one will fault you for using the straight or typewriter quotation marks.

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