4
$\begingroup$

I’ve noticed some posts have been edited to replace proper single quotation marks and apostrophes (‘ and ’) with the typewriter quotation mark ('). In my opinion, this is unambiguously worse. I specifically make an effort to avoid using the more primitive mark. Why is this done? Can we stop doing this?

The single typewriter quotation mark is from the days of typewriters. Basic unicode support is almost ubiquitous, and this is a simple glyph. Do we have data to the contrary?

Some example edits:

$\endgroup$
10
$\begingroup$

I, personally, DESPISE smart/unicode quotes.

Bear in mind when composing questions and answers that not every system is the same as yours - in particular, not every system has full unicode support (I occasionally read Stack Exchange sites in a terminal based web browser, with a terminal font that does not support smart quotes, so they look like this: ).
Rather than risk pasting gibberish into someone's environment I would much prefer to see standard 7-bit-ASCII straight quotes, apostrophes, and backticks (what you get when you type ", ' or ` in the text box with no special treatment) used as those work everywhere, and functionality trumps subjective aesthetics and typographical pedantry.


While I wouldn't go out of my way to remove smart quotes from a post, and would discourage others from doing so just for that purpose (smart quotes alone are not really a substantial issue) if I were editing a post for some other reason I would probably "fix" the quotes at the same time, depending on whether or not they were immediately bothering me.

Along the same lines, I will ask you to please refrain from "edit warring" over which direction quotation marks face. In the grand scheme of a world where SSL is broken and an airliner full of people vanished it's really not that important!

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The fact that word processors convert ' to ’ is infuriating. It's not what I typed and it means I can't copy and paste the text into anything where the characters have meaning. $\endgroup$ – Bret Copeland Apr 8 '14 at 21:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This answer pretty much sums up why I changed the quotes over. I wouldn't edit a post just to do that, but it was an "as well as" while I was correcting other typos, and editing the title and tags. They were showing as incorrectly spelled in the editor in Chrome, and as voretaq7 mentioned, unicode has been known to kill kittens. $\endgroup$ – Danny Beckett Apr 8 '14 at 22:12
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @DannyBeckett Unicode does have its uses $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Apr 8 '14 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ So would you say that using Unicode for maths formulas is discouraged? $\endgroup$ – Qantas 94 Heavy Apr 9 '14 at 0:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Qantas94Heavy If we need the complexity of unicode for math formulas we're probably treading into the territory where we'd benefit more from MathJax :-) $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Apr 9 '14 at 5:13
8
$\begingroup$

Griping about Unicode is a lost cause. It’s no longer the wave of the future; the future is already here. Back in 2012, Google reported that 60% of the web uses Unicode—a figure that is doubtless higher today.

Complaints about smart quotes are legitimate—in some contexts. Word processors and other publishing software with the smart-quotes feature attempt to infer from the surrounding text whether the user intended, for example, , , or plain old ' with a keystroke corresponding to ASCII 39, also known as Unicode APOSTROPHE (U+0027). Frustration happens when software inevitably guesses incorrectly and compounds when the software makes it difficult for the user to enter the intended character.

Stack Exchange has great Unicode support but does not have the (mis)feature of smart quotes. Over on Stack Overflow, if the site silently changed print "Hello world" to print “Hello world”, doing so would ruin helpful advice in many if not most cases. They look the same to human readers but completely different to compilers and interpreters built for programming languages with specific definitions.

When you see curly quotes or other Unicode characters, the user took most likely intended them to appear. Of course, copy-and-paste errors and ”bad typographical taste“ happen, but such cases are exceptional. Further, consider the top Aviation.SE user by reputation at the time of this writing: Peter Kämpf. Yes, he could equivalently render his name as Peter Kaempf, and given the status of English in aviation, a rude insistence from a native speaker that one of our top contributors not even sign his name in the way that’s most natural to him may be understood on some level.

However, this is a global resource for discussing aviation (in English, for reasons familiar to aviators). Insisting on 7-bit ASCII über alles is socially tonedeaf, technologically backward, and produces less pleasing results.

Conclusions

  • It’s 2015. Use modern tools. Three years behind the state of the art—an eternity in the software world—is likely good enough.
  • Unicode quotes and smart quotes are distinct concepts. The latter is problematic and is not a feature on Stack Exchange.
  • Stack Exchange in general and Aviation.SE in particular serve worldwide audiences. Eschew jingoism.
  • Edits such as those cited in the question ought to be flagged as petty Luddite vandalism.
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Ever notice that it's always the most inconsequential things that people get the most passionate about? $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Aug 11 '15 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ Note: in one particular area, SE does suffer the plague of smart quotes: all double quotes in question titles are hacked into "smart" oblivion, even on SO. In other cases, though, I certainly agree that it's worth seriously considering use of typographically correct (which is to say, Unicode) text. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Aug 11 '15 at 5:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .