[Ilene Strizver] Last month, in “How to avoid a quotastrophe,” I wrote about the use of smart, typographically correct quotation marks as opposed to dumb quotes. So what the heck does the apostrophe have to do with quotation marks? Quite a lot, typographically speaking: In proper typesetting, the glyph used for an apostrophe is one and the same as that used for the closed (or right) single quote. Sounds simple enough, but there is more to it than that!
’Twould have been good to avoid the most “popular” apostrophic mishap. ’Til is a contraction of until, so the apostrophe stands in for the deleted un.
In English, the apostrophe is used in a contraction, which is a shortened word in which a letter or letters have been omitted, such as we’ve, they’re or haven’t. An apostrophe is also used to indicate possession, as in my sister’s grammar book. For both usages, the typographically correct punctuation is a smart apostrophe (same as a smart closed — or right — single quote) … and not a typewriter quote, most often used as a prime, or foot mark.
’wichcraft is not only clever but also smart. The name is both a contraction of sandwich craft and a suggestion that the fare is bewitchingly good.
When you type a contraction or a possessive, most software will automatically insert the correct glyph for the apostrophe — that is, the closed single quote. But there are two instances where no software is smart enough to do the right thing.
The first one is when you type a contraction which begins with the apostrophe, such as ’n’ instead of and. (This site’s WordPress preferences are set to change dumb quotes, whether single or double, to smart ones, but this opening apostrophe had to be copied-and-pasted from elsewhere.) Most people are not only unaware that this punctuation should look like an apostrophe rather than an open single quote, but they’re also surprised that even very savvy software is not yet smart enough to insert the correct glyph.
Mismeasured: These should have been inch and foot marks.
Both of these typographic misdemeanors require you to go in and insert the proper punctuation manually. This can be done using the appropriate keyboard command, via copy and paste from the glyph palette, character viewer or something similar … or last but not least by using the ol’ copy and paste from another word.
TIP: Can’t tell if your apostrophe is smart? Compare it to a comma, as these two characters are usually the same design or very similar.
Type notes: For the lead image, Strizver selected Century Schoolbook.
Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator. She specializes in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical, conducting her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community.