Use of smart quotes in stories (aka, don't do it)
Alyse on 23 Jul 2007 02:52 pm (3 Comments)

We've noticed a recent upsurge in people uploading stories by copying and pasting from formats that aren't supported by the archive, particularly from Word.

Word uses some proprietary characters that, while they are recognised by Internet Explorer, aren't recognised by other browsers. This means that those characters are replaced by ? for people using non-IE browsers.

These things are called 'smart quotes' and are a tool of the devil.

To put this issue in context, only 78% of people who visit the site use IE. This leaves a whopping 22% of people who may have problems reading your story, which then means that a whopping 22% of people clicking on your story are likely to hit the back button rather than try to read your story. And I'm sure that none of you want that.

This is one of the reasons that you can only upload stories in html or in text file to this and many other archives and mailing lists rather than being able to upload Word documents. Unfortunately, copying and pasting directly from Word gets around that failsafe but it still leaves the problem of Word using non-standard characters. However, if you do use word, there are ways around this.

You can either turn smart quotes off in Word, which will enable you to copy and paste from future documents easily, or copy from a plain text file or from a file that doesn't include smart quotes. Turning off smart quotes in Word will work going forwards, but this won't fix the problem with the current files.

To save your word document as a plain text plain text file is fairly easy. From the File menu, choose 'save as', select 'plain text' and in the panel that comes up, make sure that you've ticked the box that says 'allow substitution'. This will mean that Word will replace all of its non-standard smart quotes with the standard, ASCII equivalents, when it saves as a text file. Then you can open the text file, and copy and paste from there, which should fix the problem.