January 5, 2017

On Typography: “Every day online is a new adventure in torture.”


Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

We run MobyLives on WordPress, which in general is a really easy publishing platform to use — even if you’re the kind of person who goes cross-eyed trying to fix weird paragraph breaks in the source code.

But what drives me nuts is that if you write a post in the platform itself (rather than copy-and-pasting from Word, like a goddamn Luddite), you don’t get “smart” or “curly” quotes and apostrophes, you get “straight” ones. As Glenn Fleishman writes in The Atlantic, “a dagger in my eye… in the midst of what is often otherwise typographic beauty. It’s a small, infuriating difference.”

I’ve never felt so known.

The problem, Fleishman suggests in his piece “Has the Internet Killed Curly Quotes?” (NB that capital “I” in Internet), may be the result of three mutually reinforcing variables: 1) the proliferation of “dumb” quotes in both print and online publications; 2) the challenges of designing a content management system (CMS); and 3) the dubious relevance of the “smart” quote in the first place.

Go straight to Fleishman’s piece for an excellent brief history of the typographic treatment of single and double quotes, but for anyone else stoically copy-and-pasting her way through a blog post, a helpful Typography Cheatsheet is available here.



Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.