You may have noticed a small change here in terms of text formatting. We’ve gone back to the old way of doing quotes. So instead of the text looking more like a typeset document, it looks like more like something from a typewriter. In the past, “A quoted section had these nice curly quotation marks!” But now, “A quoted section has these rather awkward straight quotation marks.” The same thing is true of of the single quote: ‘This is out’ and ‘this is in!’
Strangely, the smart quotes are the default in WordPress. And worse than that, they aren’t something you can just go into the admin and turn off. That doesn’t make much sense. This is something that a lot of people want. In fact, I’ve noticed a trend on websites away from the smart quotes. The biggest reason seems to be that people don’t like to deal with then when cutting and pasting. Because I had some notion that I might want go back, I’ve always changed smart quotes in text I’ve copied to straight quotes. Now I’m glad I was so rigid about that.
My reason for changing this is different than most others’ reason. The fact is that smart quotes just aren’t all that smart. Whoever designed the system did not bother to update it, because problems show up all the time. Here are some examples:
- …”We are going to have…”
- The system provides a right quote because it thinks a sentence is ending. I would never do this, but others do.
- I put quotes in the middle of sentences—”Like this one!”—to spice things up.
- This is much the same thing, although I used to do it all the time. As a result, I changed my style guide to put spaces around m-dashes, which I really didn’t want to do.
- “He said, ‘Double and single quotes don’t work together well.’”
- I’ll admit, this one is subtle, but it drives me crazy. The ending single quote is straight because the system can’t figure out what to do with it. That seems like an obvious one to me, but there you go.
There are other examples, but I can’t think of them right now. The point is clear enough. Smart quotes make errors all the time. If I’m going to have to worry about it, I might as well just go back to the old style, which everyone understands and works in all fonts.
There are other things that changed that I didn’t necessarily want. Before, the double hyphen (–) was converted into an m-dash. That’s gone now. I will kind of miss that. It also used to convert three periods (…) into an ellipsis (…). That one I’m kind of glad about. Of course, it makes no real difference. But it drives me crazy on other sites that do the conversion, where people have the bad habit of using four periods and ending up with this monstrosity, “And then he said…. boo!” Clearly, one of those periods is not like the others.
How to Fix This in WordPress
Interestingly, WordPress divides all of this up into three areas. You can’t just provide a single line of code to change it. You have to change the title, the content, and the comments. For a while, I had it turned off on the title and content, but not the comments. That looked bizarre. I can understand the title distinction: people might want that. But the comments?! I just don’t think so.
In order to change this, you have to edit your functions.php file. You do this by going into Appearance in the admin area and then selecting “Editor.” Then click on the Theme Functions link on the right. At the bottom of the file, add the following three lines:
And then you too will have dumb but perfect quotes on your blog.