October 18, 2011

A Handy App to Make Curled Quotes for eBooks

Attention typography nerds. Now that the digital age has dawned upon us, the straight up and down double quotes, single quotes, and apostrophes in eBooks need to become as extinct as the typewriter and trustworthy politicians. Readers (i.e. the customers) seem to prefer the "fancy" or "curled" quotes, especially for works of fiction, so there is no excuse for letting them linger like outdated relics inside your eBook.

Below is an example of straight vs. curled quotes:
"Hey, knock that off!" said Gamera's illegitimate offspring.
“Hey, knock that off!” said Gamera’s illegitimate offspring.
It's easy to spot the difference, and readers will take note if you're not using fancy quotes in your eBooks and think that you're some yahoo. Many of us are self-publishing on our laptops while not wearing any pants, but we want to give the reader the impression that we are professionals. Now it would be an incredibly painful task to go through your manuscript line-by-line to turn each straight quote into a curled quote. Fortunately, there are two options at your disposal.

Getting Microsoft Word to Automatically Format Curled Quotes

Microsoft Word has autoformatting features that convert all straight quotes into curled quotes. Apostrophes are also converted from a straight up and down mark to a closing single quote. The first thing to do is enable this autoformatting feature, which is usually on by default. More information on how to do this is available at my eBook formatting tutorial or in my book How to Format Your eBook for Kindle, NOOK, Smashwords, and Everything Else.

Perform the following steps:
  1. Click the Windows Icon in the upper left
  2. Click Word Options
  3. Click Proofing
  4. Click AutoCorrect Options
  5. Under the Autoformat tab, deselect all boxes except for Straight Quotes for “Smart Quotes” and Hyphens (--) with Dash (—)
  6. Under the Autoformat as you Type tab, deselect all boxes except for Straight Quotes for “Smart Quotes” and Hyphens (--) with Dash (—)
Next, you should use the Find and Replace function (Ctrl-H) to replace all " with " and ' with '. It may sound a bit counter-intuitive, but you are forcing Microsoft Word to use it's magic on all double and single quotes throughout your manuscript to make them curled. Here are some screen shots of the Find and Replace window:
The process is pretty quick and easy, so do not overlook this as you are putting the final touches on your manuscript.

Online App for Converting Boring Quotes to Curled Quotes

For Open Office users, automatically formatting the quotes works for doubles, but not for the singles. That is why a fellow named Thomas Giles created a very handy app that automatically converts everything into fancy quotes. It is written in JavaScript, so all you need to run it is 1) a web browser, and 2) knowledge of how to copy and paste text (Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V respectively).

For Tom's app you basically just slap in some text into the window and click "fix". The formatted text will appear in the same window. The app is free, so there is no excuse to use antiquated straight up-and-down quotes ever again.

Nerd Note: When you format your eBook in HTML, don't forget to convert all the fancy quotes to HTML entities, because some eReaders will display junk when rendering the curled quotes since they are outside the ASCII character set.


Whothehellisthat said...

Thanks for the feature, man! My app can also replace the quotes (straight or curly) with the HTML Entities, too, if you wanna put that in there too? ;P

Paul Salvette said...

It's a great app. Have you considered messing with em and en dashes?

Whothehellisthat said...

I have, but wasn't sure on what rules I should implement... I'd love to email-collab with you on the specifics!

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