The Atlantic

Has the Internet Killed Curly Quotes?

Web publications tend to favor straight quotation marks, a pragmatic approach to typography that old-school stylists can’t stand.
Source: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

The trouble with being a former typesetter is that every day online is a new adventure in torture. Take the shape of quotation marks. These humble symbols are a dagger in my eye when a straight, or typewriter-style, pair appears in the midst of what is often otherwise typographic beauty. It’s a small, infuriating difference: "this" versus “this.”

Many aspects of website design have improved to the point that nuances and flourishes formerly reserved for the printed page are feasible and pleasing. But there’s a seemingly contrary motion afoot with quotation marks: At an increasing number of publications, they’ve been ironed straight. This may stem from a lack of awareness on the part of website designers or from the difficulty in a content-management system (CMS) getting the curl direction correct every time. It may also be that curly quotes’ time has come and gone.

Major periodicals have fallen prey, including those with a long and continuing print edition. Not long ago, Rolling Stone had straight quotes in its news-item previews, but educated them for features; the “smart” quotes later returned. Fast Company opts generally for all “dumb

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
Christian Support for Roy Moore ‘Looks Like Hypocrisy to the Outside World’
Recent allegations against the aspiring Alabama senator fit a long and complicated history of religious debates about sex.
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
The Atlantic Daily: With Enough Intensity
The political firestorm of sexual-assault allegations, Trump’s foreign-policy chances, how to deal with extremism, and more
The Atlantic7 min readPolitics
Has the Mueller Probe Hamstrung Trump's Foreign Policy?
Nixon and Clinton managed to get a great deal done of overseas while facing special prosecutors at home, but Trump has more weaknesses than they did.